Wood Chip Off The Old Block
Everybody throws away their old electronic devices, and that's a big problem. In the United States, about 400,000 cell phones and 100,000 computers are disposed of every day. Electronics aren't biodegradable and release toxic wastes. The semiconductor materials in each electronic chip are precious, non-renewable resources that we could someday run out of.
Some scientists are trying to find ways to make electronics out of materials that are renewable, non-toxic, and biodegradable. In 2015, a team of researchers announced that they could make an electronic chip on a backing of biodegradable cellulose paper, made from wood; something we will never run out of as long as we can grow trees.
Making a computer chip still takes semiconductor materials such as gallium arsenide, which is poisonous. They still used gallium arsenide, but much less of it than with conventional methods. It takes thirty-six gallons of water to dilute the arsenic produced from the gallium arsenide in a conventional cell phone to safe levels. With the new paper chip it would take only about a cup and a half. Other researchers have tried to replace gallium arsenide completely with an organic semiconductor.
So, this research will help us find ways to make computer chips out of materials that we won't run out of, and safeguard the environment too.
"New Kind of Wood Chip: Biodegradable Computer Chips Made from Wood" (Science Daily)
"Next Up: Environmentally Safe Electronics That Also Vanish in the Body" (Illinois News Bureau)
"Dissolving Circuits Could Create Compostable Electronics" (Business Insider)
"E-waste Poses Environmental Hazards" (NDTV video)