An interesting trend in electronics

While there is much being published about the continual shrinking of electronics, there are a number of other activities that have been developing. One of the efforts is directed at reducing the amount of discarded electronics that end up in landfills. This becomes especially important as the Internet of Things (IoT) creates numerous wearable (and discardable) devices.

One of the ways this can be done is to create environmentally friendly electronics. A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create semiconductor chips made almost entirely out of wood! [Ref. 1] Their contention is that the majority of the semiconductor material is employed to provide a structure to hold the actual electronics. They created a cellulose nanofibril for the foundation of the electronics. More details are available in the referenced web publication.

Another approach to reducing the amount of waste is to have the electronics self-destruct. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed het triggered self-destruction electronic devices. The indication is that they could also create a RF controlled trigger to initiate the process. “The heat-triggered devices use magnesium circuits printed on very thin, flexible materials. The researchers trap microscopic droplets of a weak acid in wax, and coat the devices with the wax. When the devices are heated, the wax melts, releasing the acid. The acid dissolves the device quickly and completely” [Ref. 2]

Researchers in China have created a light-emitting, transparent and flexible paper. “The researchers developed a thin, clear nanocellulose paper made out of wood flour and infused it with biocompatible quantum dots—tiny, semiconducting crystals—made out of zinc and selenium. The paper glowed at room temperature and could be rolled and unrolled without cracking.” [Ref. 3]

As a side note, it is interesting how science fiction can find its way into reality. While it is too early to indicate success, researchers have found a phenomena that “occurs when injecting tiny grains of Lithium into a plasma undergoing a particular kind of turbulence then, under the right conditions, the temperature and pressure rose dramatically. High heat and pressure are crucial to fusion.” [Ref. 4] Have we taken another step toward fusion power generation? Star Trek Di-lithium crystals anyone?

References:
1. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/05/new-kind-wood-chip?et_cid=4591867&et_rid=658352741&type=headline
2. http://www.rdmag.com/videos/2015/05/mission-possible-device-will-self-destruct-when-heated?
3. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/05/toward-green-paper-thin-flexible-electronics?
4. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/05/tiny-grains-lithium-dramatically-improve-performance-fusion-plasma?

About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Category(s): Uncategorized

Leave a Reply