A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and researchers working in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture have joined forces and invented a high-performance wooden chip that’s not only biodegradable and eco-friendly, but also cheaper.
The study, published earlier this week, on May 26, 2015, in the journal Nature Communications, was led by Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma, a UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor.
The chip, made almost completely out of wood, marks a great technological advancement. On one hand, our planet is in a worse shape each day that passes. By using this chip, gadget manufacturers around the world will start hurting the environment less.
Professor Ma gave a statement saying that these chips are so safe that you can put them in the forest and watch how fungus will degrade it. He explains that they’ve become as safe as fertilizer. They will objectively and without a doubt help reduce pollution.
Zhiyong Cai, project leader for an engineering composite science research group at FPL, also shared that if you were to take a big tree and cut it down to look at its fibers, the most common element you would find would be paper. If you were to take it even further, to the nano scale, you would find a very strong, transparent material called CNF paper (cellulose nanofibril). This is the material that the researchers based the chip on.
Another benefit of the new inventions is that it’s cheaper. It’s cheaper to produce, and thus smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and other devices using it will also sell cheaper than the ones using a more toxic chip.
Professor Ma stresses that “If commercializing the wooden chips, tremendous material cost will be saved. We actually reduced the use of semiconductor material by 99.9 percent”.
He admits that electronics manufacturers can be resistant to change, but due to the low cost of the environmentally friendly chips and and constant need for innovation, he believes that they will become flexible and embrace such ideas, and that they will prove to be ahead of everyone else when that happens.
The team of researches were faced with some issues when developing the wood based product – surface smoothness and thermal expansion. Cai explained that you don’t want the chip too shrink or to expand too much. While wood is a natural hydroscopic material that could expand by attracting moisture, the solved both causes of concern by adding a thin layer of epoxy coating on the surface of the cellulose nanofibril.
Most chips currently being made for wireless devices are microwave chips based on gallium arsenide, a material that’s highly toxic to the environment.
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