While mushrooms have tons of benefits, such as boosting one’s immune system, helping maintaining heart and gut health, and even supplying vitamin D, the skin from the legs of mushrooms could even offer an alternative to ecological sustainability. That’s because the mushroom legs have potential for use as insulative substrates in computing chips.
With the continuous production of electronic devices throughout the years, scientists are searching for new ways to bring more natural and biodegradable portions into commonly used components such as the microchips. And what they’ve found is that peeling the skin off the mycelium of a mushroom, it can protect these chips from heating up to 392°F, or 200°C.
What the scientists from the Johannes Kepler University in Austria that were working on the project discovered is that once the mushroom is dried out, it’s not only heat resistant, but it can even last for years. In addition, it can even be bent and folded thousands of times without any wear or tear.
As for the particular species of mushroom that was used is the Ganoderma lucidum, which is often found growing from dead and rotten wood in European mountains. When the fungus reaches maturity, the skin – which is quite fibrous – can protect its own substrate, which happens to be wood in this particular case, and when it’s peeled off, is strong enough to protect microchips.
Most of the time, the substrate found under a computing chip is often made with unrecyclable material such as single use or non-reusable plastic. What the study authors explain is that while there has been an increase in the production of modern electronics, what hasn’t increased is their actual lifespan. This means that it’s easier for customers to throw away old gadgets and just buy new ones when needed, rather than replace individual parts. And according to the UN, this accounts for 50 million tonnes of electronic waste each and every year.
As for Martin Kaltenbrunner, from the Johannes Kepler University, shares, “The substrate itself is the most difficult to recycle. It’s also the largest part of the electronics and has the lowest value, so if you have certain chips on it that actually have a high value, you might want to recycle them.”
The paper was published in Science Advances, where the authors wrote, “The vast number of devices produced every day along with the decrease of their lifetime inevitably results in the generation of enormous amounts of electronic waste.”
They added, “Circular economy and recycling concepts alone cannot solve the growing waste crisis. Electronics research, and especially electronic materials research, thus must shift its focus from strictly high-functionality concepts to sustainable, cost-effective approaches.”
The mycelium skin protects the mushroom from bacteria entering it, then breaks down in the normal compost pile after being dried, taking around 10 days to do so. The researchers also explain that the skin is a little less-insulative than plastic, however it as the ability to withstand high temperatures, even while being the same thickness as paper. Moreover, this can even be grown from the all the cast off wood that comes from major lumbar production.
Currently, the team hopes that their mycelium skin could transcend into other products that don’t necessarily require long-lasting electrical circuits, such as wearable health monitors and near-field communication (NFC)tags used for a number of electronic devices. However, before this can be done, more research, development and work is needed to see whether it would be feasible to use on other products.
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