Could these fungus headphones help alleviate the e-waste problem?

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Eschewing the usual materials you’d find in headphones in favor of biodegradables such as yeast, fungus, and bacteria, the Korvaa is a joint effort from Finnish design company Aivan, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and Aalto University.

Fast Company reports that the rigid plastic in the Korvaa headphones, including that found in the headband, is 3D-printed using a bioplastic created with the lactic acid produced by yeast. The ear padding is made from a foaming protein called Hydrophobin that’s produced by fungus and mixed with plant cellulose. The fake leather also comes from fungus, while the inner mesh that sits over the speakers is biosynthetic spider silk produced by microbes. The outer foam is a mycelium-cellulose composite.

The Korvaa headphones, which were presented at the SingularityU Nordic summit in Helsinki, are a prototype design, which means they lack any electronic components that allow them to work as an actual listening device.

“Basically, weight-wise, it feels like your typical pair of headphones, except all electrical components and mechanics [hinges, etc.] are missing from this product concept,” says Aivan cofounder Thomas Tallqvist. “We hope to develop it further in the future.”

While we’re not going to see working Korvaa headphones available to buy anytime soon, the prototype illustrates the wide range of devices that can be created from biomaterials. With millions of tons of e-waste being generated every year, that can only be a good thing.

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ShagnWagn

TS Evangelist
I know some people perspire, and especially if they wear them outdoors while working. Wouldn't these fall apart?

I would say headphones are one of those products in someone's lifetime that rarely get thrown away. If you take the percentage of these as waste, it would be around .001% or less total waste?
 
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toooooot

TS Evangelist
I know some people perspire, and especially if they wear them outdoors while working. Wouldn't these fall apart?

I would say headphones are one of those products in someone's lifetime that rarely get thrown away. If you take the percentage of these as waste, it would be around .001% or less total waste?
I lost at least 20 earbuds in my life. And my vacuum killed a pair of headphones. Some broke due to cheap plastic.
 
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yRaz

Nigerian Prince
I know some people perspire, and especially if they wear them outdoors while working. Wouldn't these fall apart?

I would say headphones are one of those products in someone's lifetime that rarely get thrown away. If you take the percentage of these as waste, it would be around .001% or less total waste?
I go through a pair of earbuds 3-4 times a year and usually one headset for my PC.
 

yRaz

Nigerian Prince
How are you guys going through so many? I have yet to throw away a single set. I have been using my "newest" ones for over 10 years now.
I use my ear buds when I'm out biking, camping or hiking and they are exposed to a lot of abuse. My head set at home usually breaks from a few too many well placed rage quits
 

QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
When you throw plastic trash away... it may kill a few animals or end up in a dolphins nose, but what it doesn't do is biodegrade.

Throwing biodegradeable trash in the Ocean is like throwing food in the ocean.

Algal bloooms rob water bodies of oxygen, or cause animals that would normally not thrive, to thrive.

Gotta be careful not to disrupt the balance.
 

Puiu

TS Evangelist
The problem is that the materials used affect the sound a lot, especially in closed back headphones.

Without any actual audio tests being done I consider these to be just fantasy or maybe a niche product for people that don't care about getting the best bang for their buck in terms of audio quality.
 

yRaz

Nigerian Prince
The problem is that the materials used affect the sound a lot, especially in closed back headphones.

Without any actual audio tests being done I consider these to be just fantasy or maybe a niche product for people that don't care about getting the best bang for their buck in terms of audio quality.
Would you like an IPA with that post because I can smell your beard through my screen.....
 

mailpup

TS Special Forces
It's not clear to me how this concept is supposed to reduce e-waste. The prototype is missing all of the electronic components which when discarded constitutes e-waste. While the plastic components might biodegrade (and that's fine as far as it goes), how does this reduce e-waste?