Electronic waste is rapidly becoming a problem as we look to upgrade our gadgets to the latest and greatest. When we discard the old to make room for the new, the non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials in those gadgets can pose serious environmental risks.

In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

“The majority of material in a chip is support. We only use less than a couple of micrometers for everything else,” said UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma. “Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become as safe as fertilizer.”

“If you take a big tree and cut it down to the individual fiber, the most common product is paper. The dimension of the fiber is in the micron stage,” said Zhiyong Cai, project leader for an engineering composite science research group at FPL. “But what if we could break it down further to the nano scale? At that scale you can make this material, very strong and transparent CNF paper.”

For more information and details about this new technology, see: http://www.news.wisc.edu/23805

Image Above: A cellulose nanofibril (CNF) computer chip rests on a leaf. Photo: Yei Hwan Jung, Wisconsin Nano Engineering Device Laboratory

This article is also posted on STEAMRegister.com.