Researchers develop computer chip made almost entirely out of wood

By Shawn Knight
May 27, 2015
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  1. computer chips wood biodegradable wood chip

    Technology has become more mainstream than ever. Nearly everyone in developed nations has at least one wireless mobile device and while these gadgets have revolutionized a number of aspects of our daily lives, they’ve also responsible for creating unprecedented levels of e-waste.

    Perhaps in the near future, such waste won’t be as much of a concern as researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory have developed a semiconductor that’s constructed almost entirely of wood.

    As it turns out, the majority of a computer chip is comprised of a substrate, or support layer. Researchers were able to successfully replace the non-biodegradable support layer with a material known as cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible and environmentally friendly material made out of wood.

    computer chips wood biodegradable wood chip

    University of Wisconsin-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang Ma, who led the project, said chips built using CNF are safe enough that they can be discarded in the forest where fungus will break them down into material that is as safe as fertilizer.

    Getting to this stage wasn’t easy, however, as the team had to overcome two serious roadblocks: surface smoothness and thermal expansion. To do this, they used an epoxy coating on the surface of the CNF that makes the material smoother and also acts as a barrier against moisture.

    Best yet, the performance of chips built using CNF is comparable to existing chips.

    Considering mobile devices already outnumber humans and landfills are filling up at a rapid rate, breakthroughs like this could go a long way in leading to a more environmentally friendly future.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,106   +1,376

    Will it compute in ply-bits - one splinter per bit?
  3. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Addict Posts: 135   +50

    I think you might be bark-ing up the wrong tree.
    H3llion likes this.
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,106   +1,376

    I'm not the one barking, I'm the one sitting on that tree.
  5. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,248   +220

    Well that escalated quickly :D
    SantistaUSA likes this.
  6. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Addict Posts: 135   +50

    I'll just leaf this well alone...
    H3llion and SantistaUSA like this.
  7. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,136   +480

    Woody you're just a child's microchip!!!
  8. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,494   +668

    The new chip is made of WOOD, not PUNS ..... of course if it were made of puns the computing power on this site could be measured in gigaflops with plenty of room to spare! :) Just a comment from another sap .... OH GOD, I did it myself!!!!!
    H3llion, SantistaUSA and Bubbajim like this.
  9. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Addict Posts: 135   +50

    Woodn't it be more fun if it was made of puns? With wordplay being the root of all good humour, the possibilities stemming from a wood-chip chip would have me figuratively soiling myself with glee.
    insect likes this.
  10. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,587   +278

    How much wood would a woodchip chip if a woodchip could chip wood?
  11. 5 grams
  12. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 814   +382

    LOL great comments.
    On a more serious note, I wonder what the lifespan of these chips wood be?
  13. What if they go on fire from overheating or degrade in time because of reasons?
  14. Well firstly the age of the chip. The chip pulls apart and inside you can see the rings, count them.

    And a thermal varnish will protect these bad boys from burning up or degrading in the pond.
  15. @ Guest: That's true, stuff always happens because of reasons.
  16. ChromeShine

    ChromeShine TS Rookie Posts: 32

    First there were issues with viruses in your PC, and now the concern may shift to that of termite control.
  17. ChromeShine

    ChromeShine TS Rookie Posts: 32

    You measure the tree rings for age -- everyone knows that ;)
  18. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 810   +246

    "Best yet, the performance of chips built using CNF is comparable to existing chips."

    I'd like to know HOW comparable... I can compare the performance of a Radeon 9700 to an nVidia Titan X.... just not very favourably!!

    And let's not forget that the semi-conductor is pretty small... the amount of waste from those is minimal compared to the waste from the shell/case/chassis...
  19. RustyTech

    RustyTech TS Guru Posts: 814   +382

    I had to glance at my calendar to make sure it's May and not April :p
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  20. gunste24

    gunste24 TS Rookie Posts: 39

    Will you have to worry about termites with a wooden phone ?
  21. 9Nails

    9Nails TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,212   +174

    Can I get a wood chip phone for tree dollars? :D

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