Wonder what to do with those old cell phones, unwanted SD cards, or old chargers that don't fit any devices from this century? Most folks don't know about the proper ways to discard of these electronics, which is why 70% of them end up in a landfill. This created a whopping 41.8 million tons of e-waste in 2014. What measures can we take to avoid this? Education? More recycling receptacles? Sure, these are all important, but what about full-on switching out the materials used to create the devices in the first place?
Researchers and engineers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison are working on a solution. With the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory, the team are creating a high-performance semiconductor chip made out of wood! Published Thursday in Nature Communications, the mobile chip would be completely biodegradable once left in a landfill. No toxic waste coming from these guys and going into our environment. The substrate is made from a translucent material, called Cellulose NanoFribrils (CNF), or nanofibrillated cellulose, constructed simply out of water and wood waste “using high-pressure homogenizers, grinders, or microfluidizers to rip the wood fibers into much smaller cellulose nanofibers” (Gizmag).
After this process, a gel-like substance is all that's left. After it is dried out, long, interconnected nanofibers remain. The fibers would replace the bulky backbone of current chips found in smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Not only will this make all of these products more environmentally friendly, but there's a huge cost-reduction factor as well. Because it is only a chip made from wood fiber and not the entire device, it may only make a dent in our problem. If we could just get all the tech giants out there to hop on board with this new process, we could one day turn the technological era into a green one.
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