To reduce electronic waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from plastic, future computer chips may use a substrate made from fungi. This isn’t something out of the Mario Bros. movie either.
This does not mean that you have to have toadstools mounted on the motherboard. An article published in the journal The progress of science (and of course ZDNet) describes the process that uses only the skin of mushrooms to create a biodegradable base for electronics.
Electronics can get hot during use, and soldering requires high temperatures, so the sponge substrate was tested and found stable at over 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit). The sponge base was even tested for use as a circuit board and battery.
This “green” solution comes from the reishi mushroom, a deep, reddish-brown mushroom with a strong, woody structure that grows on dead hardwood. Reishi is also a health tonic, so after the skin is removed, the residue can be used for tea or other purposes.
This versatile mycelium is also flexible and has a thickness similar to paper. With a bending test of 2,000 times with a radius as tight as 5mm, it can be a good solution to meet the needs of advanced electronics inside wearables.
While plastics are based on petroleum (from oil) and off-gas CO2, fungi absorb CO2 and bind this greenhouse gas until they biodegrade cleanly. This makes a mycelium substrate a great solution for disposable electronics that accumulate at an alarming rate.
As these findings are currently in the lab, it’s unlikely that mushroom-based chips will make your next computer more sustainable, but it’s good to know that new solutions are being discovered to address the growing problem of e-waste.
It is not the first time that scientists have looked to nature for electronics, as some researchers are looking at transistors made of wood.