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New Wood-Based Internals To Power Flexible Devices

May 28, 2015 - Written By Ricardo Trevizo

Technology is always moving forward at an incredible pace, with new advances coming every day in order to adapt for an ever-growing demand from customers and tech enthusiasts. Recently, there has been an increased amount of flexible gadgets being released; which means that the hardware inside said devices should also adapt to this new flexible trend. Researchers all around the world have been working on an alternative material to create the internal pieces of upcoming flexible smartphones and wearables. This material is not an innovation by itself, as humans have been using for ages. In collaboration with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory, a team of researchers have come up with new wood based internals for all kinds of bendable electronics.

One of the main reasonings behind the upcoming wood internals for gadgets, is to create a halt in petroleum-based materials; which not only damage the environment, but are also less durable. Technically, the new material is not wood per se, but the cellulose fibers from wood pulp. This kind of material is called cellulose nanofibril, or CNF. Some of the upsides of using CNF include an enhanced biodegradability, a decreased toxicity, and is even more durable than the currently used plastic in semiconductor manufacturing; to the point that it has been compared to Kevlar or carbon fiber. The durability of cellulose nanofibril comes primarily from a bio-based epoxy coating, used to create a barrier against water, which could be easily absorbed by the incredibly small wood-based product. Water being soaked up by an electronic device would be potentially harmful, as it could easily create a short circuit; the bio-based epoxy coating is also used to smooth the surface of the chip to minimize the size and improve the overall engineering behind the device.

Cellulose nanofibril attracts manufacturers due to its flexible nature, which means that it can be bended without any hassle. Currently, the main issue behind flexible devices is that they cannot withstand being manipulated as much as manufacturers would like before breaking; this is not the case with CNF, which means that it could easily become the preferred material of the next generation of flexible smartphones and wearables.