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  • Writer's pictureStrawman

Computer chips now come in biodegradable version!

Not just mushrooms are likely to be on the menu when foraging for fungi. According to recent studies, mushroom skins might now offer a biodegradable substitute for some polymers used in batteries and computer chips, making them simpler to recycle.

The electronic circuits of computer chips, which are constructed of conducting metals, must be placed into a substrate, an insulating and cooling foundation, as part of the manufacturing process. This is frequently made of non-recyclable plastic polymers, which are discarded after a chip's useful life and add to the 50 million tons of electronic waste created annually.

An alternative to these polymers derived from the skin of a particular species of mushroom has been developed by a research team at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria.

Ganoderma lucidum, a mushroom that grows on dead hardwood trees, was the type of mushroom employed in this study. The mycelium, or root-like portion of the mushroom, develops a skin to cover it and defend it from other fungi and germs, according to the researchers.

The skin was discovered by the researchers to be a strong insulator after being extracted and dried out since it could tolerate temperatures of more than 200°C (390°F) and had a thickness akin to a sheet of paper.

According to the researchers, the skin may potentially last for hundreds of years if protected from moisture and UV rays, far outliving the lifespan of an electrical item. Additionally, it is readily recyclable and decomposes in soil in about two weeks.

The most challenging part of recycling is the substrate itself, according to Martin Kaltenbrunner from Johannes Kepler University. It's also the biggest component of the electronics and has the lowest worth, so you might wish to recycle any chips that are on it that are genuinely valuable.

The group came up with a method for physically putting metal electronic circuitry components onto the skin before employing an ablated laser to remove them.

Testing of the outcome revealed that the skin could tolerate being bent repeatedly and performed almost as well as the conventional plastic substrates. The team examined the material after 2,000 bends and discovered no breaks.

By building metal circuits on top of the mycelium skin, Kaltenbrunner and his team have demonstrated that they conduct nearly as effectively as they do on regular plastic polymers. The scientists also proposed that, in addition to semiconductors, certain kinds of batteries for low-power gadgets like Bluetooth sensors or radio tags may be made from the mushroom skin.

The results are ground-breaking, according to Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK. "The prototypes produced are impressive," he stated.

They believe the biodegradable skins could be a sustainable alternative material for use in electronics that don't require long-lasting electrical circuits, like wearable health monitors and near-field communication (NFC) tags for electronic devices, even though the team's work is currently experimental and far from being put into mass production.

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