MycelioTronics: Biodegradable Electronics Substrates From Fungi

A notated illustration showing how a mycelial network may be functionalized as a PCB substrate. The process starts with Cu vapor deposition onto the network followed by Au either by more vapor deposition or electrodeposition. Traces are then cut via laser ablation.

E-waste is one of the main unfortunate consequences of the widespread adoption of electronic devices, and there are various efforts to stem the flow of this pernicious trash. One new approach from researchers at the Johannes Kepler University in Austria is to replace the substrate in electronics with a material made from mycelium skins.

Maintaining performance of ICs and other electronic components in a device while making them biodegradable or recyclable has proved difficult so far. The substrate is the second largest contributor (~37% by weight) to the e-waste equation, so replacing it with a more biodegradable solution would still be a major step toward a circular economy.

To functionalize the mycelial network as a PCB substrate, the network is subjected to Physical Vapor Deposition of copper followed by deposition of gold either by more PVD or electrodeposition. Traces are then cut via laser ablation. The resulting substrate is flexible and can withstand over 2000 bending cycles, which may prove useful in flexible electronics applications.

If you’re looking for more fun with fungi, check out these mycelia bricks, this fungus sound absorber, or this mycellium-inspired mesh network.

12 thoughts on “MycelioTronics: Biodegradable Electronics Substrates From Fungi

  1. I’m sure manufactures would love a circuit board that decays after a few years.
    They could even bribe politicians into making laws requiring it.
    Then, no one can keep their electronic device functioning indefinitely.
    Oh! Your cars ECU has decayed? Too bad, buy a new car.

    1. i see the aforementioned downside ( for sure manufacture will use that as an excuse for planed obsolescence). however let me ask you this when was the last time your book/cardboard/newspaper just decayed into nothing? i personally never witnessed such an event. sure if you get it wet or burn it but mycelia has been shown to be flame retardant in the past and electronics should never be wet anyway sooooooo…………..

    2. No matter what new technology is invented, some greedy or seedy idiot will always use it for something terrible. If you drive a carriage with a horse, at some point the horse will might die. If you use an open fire to cook your food, you might set things ablaze. There’s downsides to everything.

  2. Yes, that’s one new approach. I’m happy about folks doing research and all that.

    Another approach would be to nuke the ad industry from orbit, to stop them packing ever more javascript in web pages, thus forcing end users to buy faster and faster client devices to keep up.

    Just sayin’

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