Elaine Hardt found this short piece posted in the November issue just out from Popular Mechanics giving a few details about an biodegradable, environmentally friendly microchip. Why? How? When? It is on page 86 of the magazine.
Computer Chips Made of Wood
Your TV, phone, and Xbox are hard to get rid of, and not just for sentimental reasons. The electronic devices we use every day are powered by microchips, and those microchips contain precious or harmful elements like silicon, gold, gallium, and arsenic. You don't want these things sitting in landfills, where the chemicals can leak into the ground. But right now that's exactly what many do. This issue prompted an idea from University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Jack Ma and his team: Why not make the chips out of wood? The crucial circuits are still made of silicon or gallium arsenide, but in a quantity up to five thousand times smaller than that of typical chips. Those circuits, about a hundred nanometers thick, are placed on a base of cellulose nanofibril—wood that has been broken down to the nanoscale, then reassembled into what is essentially a thin, durable paper. The result is a biodegradable, environmentally friendly microchip. Consumers won't be able to buy the chips directly, but Ma says that three major computer chip manufacturers could soon be making them. —Jake Cappucino