UW researchers design wood-based computer chip

UW researchers design wood-based computer chip
Wood computer chip

A University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering research and development team thinks a computer chip made mostly of wood could be the answer to potentially toxic, non-biodegradable electronics filling up landfills.

“Because we dump so many computers and mobile phones and tablets — you know, everything,” UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Dr. Jack Ma said. “Later we found out, wow, this material has surprising properties that’s suitable, really suitable, for our purposes.”

The UW team said their chip, designed in part with the federal Forest Products Laboratory, eliminates nearly all of what’s harmful, such as a silicone coding, and replaces most of it with an ultra-thin form of a paper support layer.

“The amount of toxic material is actually below the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard,” team member Yei Hwan Jung said. “So we can actually drink water with the amount of toxic material inside the water.”

The study, published in the Nature Communications Journal, says the wooden chips are safe enough that if you throw them in the forest fungus would degrade the chip, like a fertilizer.

Ma said a startup company is already showing interest in this technology, and his team is working as quickly as possible to commercialize the chip.