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14 Feb 2022

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Using plastic electronics, the UK tries to make the first biodegradable chips

According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report, the world generated 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste in 2020. Electronic products are not only highly polluting, but also a waste of rare and precious metals when they are not handled appropriately.

This is why the Green Energy-Optimised Printed Transient Integrated Circuits (GEOPIC) project is bringing together chip manufacturer ARM, plastic chip manufacturer PragmatIC Semiconductor, substrate developer Printed Electronics, material supplier IQE, the National Physical Laboratory of the UK and researchers from the University of Glasgow's James Watt School of Engineering. The purpose of their mission is to build the first biodegradable chip using plastic electronics. A £ 1,5 million subsidy is being provided by the UK for this project.

In this three-year project, flexible and printed integrated circuits based on silicon nanomembranes will be created on biodegradable materials. Once the circuits are no longer needed, the silicon can be recycled and the materials will naturally degrade.

Is this strictly a scientific research project? Not really. The project builds on the expertise of Glasgow University's Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) group, which has already developed a number of advances in electronics, including bendable and stretchable printed circuits that are capable of performing the same tasks as traditional silicon-based electronics, and wearable electronics powered by sweat. They have developed methods for reliably printing circuitry on flexible surfaces as well. PragmatIC has already collaborated with ARM on plastic ARM processors. In addition, PragmatIC manufactures plastic 6502 processors.

Photo credit: Tistio

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