A new kind of wood chip: collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips

Read the full story from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Portable electronics — typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials — are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers’ pursuit of the next best electronic gadget.

In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

The research team, led by UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma, described the new device in a paper published today (May 26, 2015) by the journal Nature Communications. The paper demonstrates the feasibility of replacing the substrate, or support layer, of a computer chip, with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.

What will it take to put circular thinking into practice?

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Ever take apart a desktop printer? Myriad screws, metal sheets, coated wires, springs, fans, circuit boards and plastic shapes snap together. Wheels are tucked inside with a tightly-fused plastic cartridge holding ink or a laser. Easily a thousand pieces are in one simple desktop printer used in small offices.

Add up all of these individual parts and you get some real value.

Lots of electronic devices need tiny screws, springs, fans, metal, circuit boards and plastic casing.  If they were all made in standard sizes, then reusing them would be easy and a big cost saver — both for manufacturers and consumers.

Reusing the components of a desktop printer or a computer monitor, television, cell phone, etc., would keep those metal parts, wires, screws, springs and plastic casings out of landfills or avoid the toxic burning process that disassemblers resort to in the typically impoverished location where electronics recycling occurs.

Still, most consumer products — electronic or otherwise — are not designed for reuse in the remanufacturing of new things.  And most users don’t think much about what will happen to their old devices as they rush to buy the latest version.

Taking materials to the next level with nature’s designs and chemicals

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Chemicals make up all of the stuff we interact with every day, from the plastic keys of a computer to the soap in the dishwasher. When Biomimicry 3.8’s Mark Dorfman took the the main stage at GreenBiz Forum 2015, he wanted talked about chemicals and how every one of us are surrounded by them.

During the annul conference in Phoenix, Dorfman said that a material’s functionality and sustainability ultimately comes down to its chemistry. While traditionally fabricated chemicals like polymers are all around us, Dorfan spoke more about the existence of natural chemicals.

Latest wheat-straw uses: Paper towels, toilet tissue

Read the full story in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

A company plans is rolling out a new line of tissues and paper towels this month that incorporates wheat straw and bamboo, which it hopes will provide a rapidly renewable and environmentally friendly source of fiber for its products while giving farmers a new market for what remains after the grain is harvested.

Inside the shotgun marriage of design and supply chain processes

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

These days…joining design and supply chain processes is a necessity, owing to customers’ increasing demands for responsible environmental stewardship and worker safety, along with numerous countries’ regulations enforcing those two protections. Product designers have no choice but to engage their company’s supply chain to ensure that products are hazardous-substance free, that supply-chain workers are treated fairly and that products are responsibly recycled.