Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Wood (Computer) Chips

PostedApril 10, 2016

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Anchor Lede: Well over a hundred million mobile phones are discarded every year in the U-S alone. What if the much of the electronics could be made of biodegradable wood?

Randy Atkins: Computer chips are hard to recycle and made mostly of material that either doesn’t degrade or is poisonous.

Jack Ma: We want to replace those materials with something that we can easily find and can self-decompose.

Randy Atkins: Jack Ma, an electrical engineer at the University of Wisconsin, says a colleague suggested putting electronics on wood instead of materials like silicon.

Jack Ma: I said, I’m not sure whether it’s going to work but let’s try.

Randy Atkins: He found wood works as well as current substrates, offering the possibility that...

Jack Ma: …we reduce the amount of these expensive or toxic materials by three-thousand to five-thousand times.

Randy Atkins: Ma says the wood, while protected in a phone, would be readily degraded by a common fungus when exposed to the environment. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.