Scavenging CDs For Flexible Parts

CDs are becoming largely obsolete now, thanks to the speed of the internet and the reliability and low costs of other storage media. To help keep all of this plastic out of the landfills, many have been attempting to find uses for these old discs. One of the more intriguing methods of reprurposing CDs was recently published in Nature, which details a process to harvest and produce flexible biosensors from them.

The process involves exposing the CD to acetone for 90 seconds to loosen the material, then transferring the reflective layer to a plastic tape. From there, various cutting tools can be used to create the correct pattern for the substrate of the biosensor. This has been shown to be a much more cost-effective method to produce this type of material when compared to modern production methods, and can also be performed with readily available parts and supplies as well.

The only downside to this method is that it was only tested out on CDs which used gold as the conducting layer. The much more common aluminum discs were not tested, but it could be possible with some additional research. So, if you have a bunch of CD-Rs laying around, you’re going to need to find something else to do with those instead.

Thanks to [shinwachi] for the tip!

42 thoughts on “Scavenging CDs For Flexible Parts

  1. “CDs are becoming largely obsolete now, thanks to the speed of the internet and the reliability and low costs of other storage media.”

    Are USB drives so cheap we can give them to complete strangers without a blink?

      1. Which is supposedly the way Stuxnet infiltrated the Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuge facility. Not dropped by the thousands, though…

        SO, never stupidly trust a “lost” flash drive any more than you would trust a homeless, drug addicted street person to be a safe sexual partner.

    1. We used to ship manuals on CD to our customers with every order at my place of work. These were CDs with the company logo stamped on. We now do that in USB thumb drives stamped with our logo and these are 16GB in capacity. They are a lot cheaper than a CD so we switched.

  2. It’s so easy to tell these days who read and understood the article.
    Let me spell it out real slow:
    structural designs of stretchable conductors; stretchable bioelectronic applications
    It’s nice if it reflects, but that is NOT the purpose here. The surface of water reflects too, or a glass window with a dark room behind. Yet completely irrelevant.

  3. There is no better and cost effective archive medium than DVD (M-DISC)

    Two layers of polycarbonate are almost as good as amber, and look how good this bugs are preserved.

    1. M-DISC seems like a super-niche technology requiring a special drive. According to Wiki it was introduced only in 2009 when many of new laptops at least in EU already didn’t have *any* DVD drive and even cheaper shity bulky laptops and desktops lost DVD drive in 1-3 years later and I’d bet that 99% of those didn’t support M-DISC even when manufactured after 2009.

  4. Some of us still buy music on CD, and then rip it into our computers. It’s nice to be able to have DRM free music.
    No subscription, no connection, no permission, no problem.

    1. +1

      I have music that you cannot stream… full stop. It is just not available on any streaming service you care to name.

      So CDs… or in some cases, records… → capture to the computer → encode as Vorbis (or MP3, or FLAC, or AAC… whatever your poison is)… that’s how I roll, and have done for close to 20 years now.

      1. Performing this process requires a drive. So, why are computer manufacturers eliminating them? I would also like to start ripping my CD collection to create an online library utilizing J- River, Plex amp, or some other music media server, but would prefer a Windows 10 machine with a built in drive to perform this task.

        1. My latest i7 computer claimed it didn’t have one included (even though the photo showed it), but when it arrived, it was there. I’d already spent <$20 for a USB version on "the big river online store". Now my new system has two!

        2. Because it’s a general-purpose computer, not a specialty niche device for a 40-year-old audio format. Most computer software comes from the network these days instead of an optical disc, and streaming media is commonplace.

          They do still make new external optical drives in factories every day, though. And they do work very well indeed.

  5. So the basic gist of this is that a thin, conductive, metallic film would be incredibly useful, but it’s cheaper and easier to harvest it from obsolete materials than use the same methodologies and production processes that we already spent the time and effort to develop in a new and slightly different way.

    Hmm. . . Anyone wanna go in on some industrial surplus spin-coating and vapor deposition equipment? These university types pay big bucks for materials, and if the corporate overlords have decided the machines are obsolete. . .

  6. What is the “eco” cost to benefit here? I question it. You want to use a really nasty chemical that quickly flashes into the atmosphere and is toxic to every life form in order to salvage part of an inert solid from a landfill?

    1. This is not intended for commercial production, or as a way to recycle CDs. If you’re a researcher who needs to make a small quantity of custom devices on the lab bench then this is a readily available and ultra cheap process.

      And nobody said anything about leaving the acetone out to evaporate. You only need a small amount, and it’s completely reusable.

    2. Why all the alarmism? From WP: “Acetone is produced and disposed of in the human body through normal metabolic processes. It is normally present in blood and urine.” It’s also used in certain pharmaceuticals. The low flash point is one of the reasons it’s so safe (except in regard to flammability, of course). Being organic, I guarantee there’s at least one kind of creature out there that can eat it.

  7. I’ve had thumb drives go bad, so there’s that. And here’s something that apparently has escaped the notice of the technical male demographic; crafting with CDs has become such a large interest among the ladies that HGTV used to have a show which had a regular segment featuring all the things you could do with all those free AOL disks. You guys are a couple of decades late.

  8. I for one do not welcome the exit of physical media. I still use CDs and DVDs.

    Why? The ownership issue. Relying on someone to keep track of what I have a right to own and stream over the internet is a recipe for disaster should a database become compromised.

    I am busily moving my SD DVD collection to a local NAS and will do the same with Blu-Ray and music after that. Streaming from my own server

    Dead CDs are great CNC stock for test runs and to replace the plates in vertical blinds BTW.

    1. I still do extra backups on DVDs/CDs sometimes..
      No one can predict whst the future holds.
      A high solar activity, an EMP, radiation..
      Non-electric media will survive them, optical media even more so than magnetic ones.

      That’s what depresses me a bit..
      What happened to the future of the past – laser technology?
      Optical fibre, holography (projection), holography (storage), CDs, laser transmission links to the skies and the seas, infrared ports, infrared headphones ..

      It all seemed so futuristic, so elegant..

      Now we’re back to boring copper and poor flash technology.
      Which increases storage by storing more and more different states into each cell, making them less and less reliable.
      Speaking of, what happened to real RAM drives? Those that did use SRAM or similar technology?
      Why is there no improvement, no development anymore?

      1. The “future” is way better than the past.

        2K of ram in my first computer in 1979. No floppy drive till 1984. 512K of ram about 1987. First hard drive at the end of 1993, 80megs. My first “IBM PC” in 2001, 16megs of Ram, 1 or 2 gigs of hard drive.

        I can got an SSD that’s cheaper than that 1993 drive, and way nore dense. I canget a 128gb flashdrive for $20. In my refurbished i7, bought in 2016, 500gigs of hard drive, 8gigs of RAM. I have a tablet that beats anything I had before that i7.

        Most of this wasn’t imagined forty years ago, other than in a vague “things will get better”

      2. After the EMP or Carrington, we’ll still need a device to read those disks (optical microscope?)
        The place I worked at during the 1990s bought a disk syterm that would store 1Gb or so, on a glass disk.
        They claimed the data written onto a disk could last 100 years. (Each disk was around $25 compared to a blank CD-R <$1). I wonder if they still have either the drive or the disks…

    1. Huh, didn’t Amiga use DD floppys in terrible (filthy) condition only? ;)
      According to how Amiga people on the net talk about the good old days, HDDs and CD-ROM drives apparently didn’t exist?
      Unless they Amiga user had access to PC hardware through PC bridgeboards, I mean? :D
      Which many Amiga users I talked to denied of ever having had. And even if they had, it was just for “productive software” that needed DOS. And even then, the bridgeboards were just used for a while. Or something like that, not sure. ;)

  9. Collecting over 300 CDs from various charity shops provided the means of customising an entire room; 2 walls, window blinds, a desk top (under a sheet of glass), an ornate headboard, chandelier & framed mirror. The number of prisms in the room when the sun moves past the window is truly mesmerising. The best few Bob I ever spent on recycling.

  10. I hope people aren’t using Grateful Dead CDs for this. I’m still buying those new. Use the “101 Salsa songs by generic artist” CDs.

    There was a time when I found nothing interesting in CDs at book sales and garage sales. It was all either last week’s big seller, or very generic. But it got a lit better, CDs I’d actually want i recent years.

  11. I was thinking of another way to use the aluminum foil from CDs but i have no experience in the matter: planar magnetic driver made from the scavanged thin foil. Perhaps?

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