Can certain types of mushrooms ensure greener electronics in the future?
Modern microchips are difficult to recycle and often end up in electronic waste. The chips themselves are not to blame for this. The surface on which the microchips sit, known as the substrate, also consists mainly of silicon and plastic – both of which are not known for being able to be degraded quickly.
An Austrian research team led by Martin Kaltenbrunner from the Johannes Kepler University in Linz have been looking for alternatives that are more ecological and durable. They found what they were looking for in a mushroom.
Is the future of microchips fungal?
The mushroom is in Japanese
Reishi called, which translates as divine mushroom. In China they call him
Ling Chi, Tree of Life Mushroom. While it is often used in traditional medicine in East Asian countries, the mushroom, which is also native to us, does not see much use in this country. The name is also far less mythical for us: Shiny lacquered polypore.
The glossy lacquer polypore is an Asian remedy and may soon be the future of computer chips (Image: Wikimedia – Eric Steinert, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The fungus grows on older wood, forming a skin around its mycelia to protect it. The latter are also referred to as a mushroom network and, to put it very simply, are the roots of a mushroom.
Kaltenbrunner and his team could not find the mycelia skin found on the lacquer polypore on other mushrooms. After extraction and drying, it exhibited properties that could be perfect for use as an integrated circuit substrate. It insulates well, is flexible, withstands temperatures of up to 200° Celsius and is about as thick as paper.
A prototype with a proximity sensor installed on the mushroom skin (Image: science.org)
Kaltenbrunner assumes that the fungal skin can survive for several hundred years if it is protected from UV light and moisture. This would mean that the chips would outlast any electrical device in which they are used.
In addition, the fungus skin is completely decomposed after only about two weeks in the ground. In comparison, silicon takes an estimated 50 to 500 years.
Although the mushroom’s mycelial skin is very durable, the researchers hope the mushroom’s substrate could be used in batteries for short-lived electrical devices like Bluetooth trackers. This could reduce the amount of electronic waste produced.
Incidentally, electronic waste is just one of many problems that plague our environment. Starting next year, France wants to become greener with a large number of solar cells. You can read more about it here:
What do you think of the researchers’ project? Do you think mushrooms could soon be used as a microchip substrate? Write it to us in the comments!
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