The problem with current semiconductors today are that they are essentially toxic and non-biodegrable, and so the researchers think they can replace substrates of chips with cellulose nanofibril (CNF) a material derived from wood.
Professor Jack Ma, a computer engineer professor at UW-Madison, said: “The majority of material in a chip is support. We only use less than a couple of micrometres for anything else. Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become as safe as fertiliser.”
CNF, according to the team, has a relatively low thermal expansion coefficient, making it suitable for such applications.
Most chips use gallium arsenide chips because of their performance but it is pretty toxic.
Ma said that because mass production of current semiconductors is so chip, it could well take some time for the industry to adopt the wooden design.
“Flexible electronics are the future, and we think we’re going to be well ahead of the curve.”