Electronic chips made out of wood would be biodegradable, and save the headache of deciding what to do with old, unwanted electronic devices. It would make a big impact on humanity’s ability to live a modern, yet green, lifestyle.
The researchers built the chip parts from nanocellulose. Trees are made up of many different cellulose fibers, and so nanocellulose is very, very small cellulose fibers. Using the material also lessens the need for semi-conducting material, which is rare and expensive.
Computer chips and other components are currently made out of plastics and metals, and the manufacturing process emits a lot of carbon dioxide. When it comes time to discard the device, it’s hard to throw it away safely. Are all the different parts being recycled properly? Is the device sitting in a landfill somewhere, leaching chemicals into the soil? Biodegradable electronic chips made out of wood could be thrown out a car window guilt-free and solve a major problem.
More and more appliances, like TVs and refrigerators, are becoming reliant on electronic chips, so finding a sustainable way to meet the market demand is key.
Nanocellulose could also be used to make flexible electronics, which is currently only possible with plastics. Already, it is being used to some extent in solar cells and other electronics.
The chips could bee available on the market right away, but lead researcher Zhenqiang Ma thinks consumers are unlikely to see them in stores. For these electronic chips to be widely used, consumers and environmental regulations would need to put pressure on manufacturers, or the cost of semiconducting material would need to decrease.