Dealing with the burgeoning problem of electronic waste (e-waste) continues to perplex both environmentalists and engineers. But an accidental discovery by scientists working with mushrooms may pave the way toward more biodegradable electronic devices and components in the near future.
Researchers at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria were investigating the use of mushroom skins in home insulation systems. What they found during the course of their research was that the mycelium-covering skins of reishi mushrooms were “robust, flexible, and heat resistant” when shielded from ultraviolet light, and were able to stay intact even when exposed to temperatures as high as 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
That surprising finding led the researchers to consider whether mycelium-based materials could serve as the substrate material to which components in computers and other electronic components are attached. Substrates currently used in electronic technologies are generally made of non-recyclable plastics and are difficult to separate from the electronic components attached to them. But mycelium-based materials could simply be placed in soil where they would biodegrade, giving easy access to the formerly implanted components.