After receiving a £1.5m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, researchers at Glasgow University have set out on a mission to develop the world’s first controlled degradable integrated circuit, with hopes it will help to reduce electronic waste.
The amount of electronic waste we produce is forecast to increase year-on-year, with much of the waste including electronic items such as old phones, computers and laptops. However if the development of a new biodegradable microchip is successful, it could help to ease the problem.
The team at Glasgow University will be working in collaboration with a range of industrial and governmental partners to develop the high-performance materials, which will be all be more easily-recyclable. This will allow the waste to be used for new forms, as well as allowing it to be more safely disposable.
Already, researchers from BEST group (University’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies) who are part of the collaborative project, have produced numerous new forms of electronics, including bendable and stretchable printed circuits. The performance is said to be at similar levels to conventional silicon-based electronics and wearable systems. In addition, they have also developed a method that will allow high-performance circuity to be printed onto flexible surfaces. Producing a wide range of electronics like this will allow e-waste to be even further reduced, which is great news.
Over the next three years, the newly funded project will build upon these previous developments, in order to create silicon, nanomembrane-based, high-performance, flexible and printed integrated circuits. The new circuits are planned to be used in conjunction with new forms of biodegradable materials, which will degrade naturally. The silicon used will be recyclable, which will again help to reduce waste.
Dr Jeff Kettle, the co-investigator of the project said, “I’m proud to be working on this project with my colleagues in the BEST group and our partners across the UK. I’m confident that we can find new methods of dealing with this urgent problem.”