Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison collaborated with the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to create a new type of semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood-based material. The cellulose nanofibril (CNF) computer chip is biodegradable, it's a flexible, transparent material and reportedly cheaper to manufacture than traditional semiconductors.
The creators claim these chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it, making them as safe as fertilizer.
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"The majority of material in a chip is support. We only use less than a couple of micrometers for everything else," Ma says. "Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become as safe as fertilizer."
"If you take a big tree and cut it down to the individual fiber, the most common product is paper. The dimension of the fiber is in the micron stage," Cai says. "But what if we could break it down further to the nano scale? At that scale you can make this material, very strong and transparent CNF paper."
"You don't want it to expand or shrink too much. Wood is a natural hydroscopic material and could attract moisture from the air and expand," Cai says. "With an epoxy coating on the surface of the CNF, we solved both the surface smoothness and the moisture barrier."