New CPUs made of wood promise cheaper, healthier, greener technology

How many of you have a pile of computers sitting in a closet because you can't throw them away, but you don't want to recycle the hazardous materials that sit inside? In the future, your CPU may be able to decompose without releasing noxious chemicals into the air.

Researchers in Madison, Wisc.; Arlington, Texas;, and Chengdu, China; have teamed up and discovered a way to create semiconductors almost entirely out of cellulose nanofibril, a material almost completely derived from wood. Whereas a traditional semiconductor uses the same material in the substrate as is in the active layer, the new chips would replace the entire substrate with wood. The result is that only the thin active layer would have the harmful chemicals in it. According to the researchers, there is no impact to performance.

In addition to costing less and the reduction in chemicals, the chips are also biodegradable, helping the environment. While you won't be putting these semiconductors in your compost heap, a controlled process of applying fungi and water can decompose the chips in a matter of days or weeks.

It will be interesting to see if companies like Intel and AMD start advancing this research into their commercial products. Until then, you'll have to make due with wooden smartphone covers instead.

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