- The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Young Investigator Group, based in Karlsruhe, Germany, is developing biodegradable electronic components using semiconductors and dyes made from plant extracts and insulators made of gelatin. Once thrown away, the components will rot like other organics.
- Although this group has not yet constructed complete components, they have developed organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) which can be produced easily and at a low cost. The group aims to develop biodegradable inks for compostable foils that can be used as alternatives in printer arsenals.
- The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has provided the investigator group with €1.7M (about $1.9M) to fund research and development for four years.
In August, Waste Dive reported that the global electronic waste market is projected to reach $5.04 billion by 2020 at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 20.6%, from $1.66 million in 2014. While this may be good news for e-waste recyclers, the overall growth of electronic waste is concerning for the environment.
"These [organic components] may not be as long-lived as the inorganic alternatives, but they easily survive the service life of disposable electronics," said Dr. Gerardo Hernandez-Sosa, leader of the Biolicht Young Investigator Group of KIT.
Although the development of biodegradable electronic components is a step in the right direction to combat the growing problem of e-waste, it may be difficult for manufacturers to regulate such components into their production of electronics.