There is a large number of electronics that get wasted every year and almost all of them have PCB boards. Whenever we throw away the old phone or that old computer/game console, have you ever wondered where all those boards went? Globally, humans produce about 20 million tons of e-waste a year!
To make things worse, over the years since our electronics are getting smaller, salvaging the device for usable components is harder and takes more time. Not to mention that a lot of elements that are found in electronics which make it hard to salvage. In
Researchers led by John A. Rogers in the University Of Illinois were able to manufacture boards from Magnesium, Tungsten, and zinc formulated as micro or nanoparticle paste and printed on biodegradable substances such as sodium Carboxyl methylcellulose. The researchers found that these boards disintegrated in about 10 minutes when placed in water. The remains of the boards were transient metals, which over the course of hours to days will form into soluble hydroxides.
Could biodegradable substrates be direct replacements for FR4?
In addition to the type of boards mentioned above, there are a lot more materials researchers are experimenting with to use as substrates. Two important characteristics of biodegradable boards will be explored.
The first characteristic will be the thermal properties of the boards. Due to the composition of most of these boards, they are not able to achieve the same thermal capabilities of traditional FR4. However, there was a board that was made from banana stems and wheat gluten which operated successfully at 45C.
The second characteristic to make note of would be the mechanical capabilities of the boards. Since the boards are not made from hard-wearing material, the strength of the boards is relatively low. However, researchers are working to get better boards by using combinations of various substrates to get more durable boards.
Although this is still in development, Bittele will continue to closely follow advancements in this field and will aim to incorporate eco-friendly substrates as they become commercially available.