Researchers may have found a solution to our electronic waste crisis. Currently, the U.S generates over 2,440,000 tons of e-waste every year, only 27% of which is recycled. This left many researchers struggling to find possible solutions. In the meantime, the junk continues to pile up. In fact, researchers on Kamilo Beach in Hawaii discovered rocks made of plastic!
Plastic takes years to break down, and it becomes ingrained in the ecosystem, melting and adhering to rocks, sand, and other debris. Of course, we do a have a bevy of recycling options available, but they simply cannot keep up. What’s more, electronics that contain chemicals leach toxic byproducts into the land as they degrade. The devices that contain these toxins include CPUs, TVs, printers, cell phones, and more.
CNF Paper Makes Electronics Biodegradable
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in conjunction with the Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory, developed a new material called cellulose nanofibril, or CNF for short. These “wood chips” include a surprising material: computer chips. Researchers believe that these CNF chips will be able to ease some of the environmental impact that e-waste has on our planet.
The new technology replaces the usual substrate on which computer chips are created. Traditionally, computer chips are built on petroleum and paper-based substrates; subsequently, transistors and other components adhere to it. The majority of the substrate is actually replaceable; so, researchers broke them down and formed biodegradable, ultra-thin, but strong CNF paper.
If not properly sealed, fungi easily biodegrade the chip substrates, which poses a new problem for the technology. Researchers continue to combat these issues, and they believe CNF paper will be suitable for almost all of our technology, including mobile devices, display screens, and much more. Experts are hopeful that with a little nudging from the government, CNF technology will quickly become the way all technology is made. They predict that biodegradable technology will surpass the numbers of its environmentally hazardous counterparts within 10 years.