It’s time to go browsing in the technology file and I found a couple of very interesting articles. We all know that we’re drowning in plastic and it’s only going to get worse. So what if we started making some of those plastic things from something else? What if we started using an old familiar friend to replace some of our building materials that aren’t so ecologically friendly?

For instance, portable electronics, which are typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials, are discarded at an alarming rate as we pursue the next electronic gadget.

To help reduce the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin researchers has collaborated with researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory to develop a surprising solution. They propose a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood. They want to replace the support layer of a computer chip, with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.

The researchers say that the majority of material in any chip is support. The electronic components are a very small part of the chip. Their wooden chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade them. They become as safe as fertilizer.

CNF addresses two big problems with using wood-derived materials in an electronics setting: surface smoothness and thermal expansion. Wood can attract moisture from the air and expand. Having a chip expand inside a phone, for instance, is a big no-no, so they’re using an epoxy coating on the surface of the CNF to solve both surface smoothness and moisture attraction.

The researchers say that the advantage of CNF over other polymers is that it's a bio-based material and most other polymers are petroleum-based. Bio-based materials are sustainable, bio-compatible and biodegradable and compared to other polymers, CNF actually doesn’t expand much when exposed to heat.

In addition, the majority of today's wireless devices use gallium arsenide-based microwave chips because of their superior high-frequency operation and power handling capabilities. But gallium arsenide can be environmentally toxic, particularly in the massive quantities of discarded wireless electronics. Because you can put more transistors on a CNF chip, using them will greatly reduce the use of such expensive and potentially toxic material.

Wooden computer chips might be the wave of the future, but using a common building material in a new way is already happening.

There’s a new dorm at the University of British Columbia. It located in the Brock Commons area of the campus and it’s 18 stories tall. That’s about 180 feet. So?

There’s lots of tall buildings in any big city. But this one is unique. It’s made mostly of wood.

The building is the first wood, steel and concrete hybrid project taller than 14 stories in the world. It has a concrete foundation and two concrete stair cores, with 17 stories of cross-laminated-timber floors supported on glue-laminated wood columns. The building is clad in prefabricated wall panels made from 70 percent wood fiber.

Canada’s Minister of natural resources says “This remarkable building, the first of its kind in the world, is another shining example of Canadian ingenuity and innovation, an apt demonstration of how Canada's forest industry is finding new opportunities through technology and innovation and opening up a world of possibilities for our forest and construction industries”.

Wood is a sustainable and versatile building material that stores, rather than emits, carbon dioxide. The use of wood means that there was a reduction of over 2600 tons of carbon dioxide compared with other construction materials. This is the equivalent of taking around 500 cars off the road for a year.

And what is the name of this wonderful dorm? Why, Tallwood, of course. Hey, at least they didn’t call it Boaty McBoatface!!


Cruise on over to The Deep website at www.thedeepradioshow.com to learn more about the uses of wood and many other topics. Enjoy!

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