Will the Wooden Semiconductor Chip Take Over?

Ever wondered what happens to all the mobile phones and computers after you chuck them away? The harsh truth is that, they keep getting added on to the ginormous collection of e-waste that’s piling up on the world. According to estimates, humans will produce more than 65 million tons of e-waste by the year 2017. That’s a crazy figure!

And you thought the pile of waste at the corner of your street was too much! But fortunately for us, the U.S Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in collaboration with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have come up with a brilliant strategy to help reduce the environmental burden. Their solution – a wooden semiconductor chip.

The researchers cut down wood to the nanometre scale to create a transparent material called cellulose nanofibril (CNF) and used this in the wooden semiconductor chip instead of the silicon substrate parts. So now, the top layer of the chip remains as before and the “bulk material” gets replaced by wood.  According to the tests that were carried out, the researchers claim that these wooden chips function as good as regular chips, but with an extra edge over the traditional ones in the form of a biodegradable and sustainable alternative.

The surface and thermal expansion issues due to exposure to air and water have been avoided by adding an epoxy coating on top of the CNF. The wooden semiconductor chip is mechanically very flexible and will surely pave the way for bendable electronics in the future.(And no, iPhone 6 [allegedly] doesn’t use these chips).

According to Zhiyong Cai, Project leader of the engineering composite science research group at FPL, “With the new substrate, the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become safe as a fertilizer”.

The wooden semiconductor chip may not be as cheap as the conventional chips right now, and may pose difficulties for the electronic manufacturers. But according to scientists, these may gain a good position in the market when the environmental pressure on the manufacturers grows.

Will the wooden semiconductor chip take over the tech world, or find a place at least? Let us hope that many firms in the electronic industry adopt the go green policy.

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