Environmentally Friendly Electronics

Electronics are known to have huge negative impacts on the environment.  Researchers from Istituto Officina dei Materiali at CNR and from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste (SISSA) may have found a way to make more environmentally friendly electronics.

The team includes Massimo Capone and Gianluca Giovannetti.  The researchers have actually created a new ferroelectric material, diisopropylammonium bromide (DIPAB).  The material is a molecular crystal. “Basically it is a lattice in which at each point, instead of a single atom, as observed in normal crystals, an entire molecule is found,” explains Capone. “This is a crucial aspect, as such molecules feature ‘tails’ that can orient themselves much more easily than what occurs with ions in atomic crystals, thus favouring polarization.”

Still confused? Capone elaborates by stating that “a ferroelectric material has properties analogous to those of a magnet in electricity, a system in which the electric dipoles tend to “line up”. Materials with such characteristics are key in the production of electronic devices, from ordinary computers to solar cells. The materials that are usually employed, like barium or titanium oxides, have a very strong impact on the environment and, besides, require complex equipment for their production”.

Basically, the organic material created by the researchers is easy processed, has a low impact on the environment, and is cheaper to produce.

The impact of electronics on the environment is gaining attention on a government front.  For example, as of January 24th, consumers and businesses in Pennsylvania are no longer allowed to dispose of electronics in the trash.  The law is being enacted under the Pennsylvania Covered Device Recycling Act (CDRA), passed in 2010.  Trash haulers will no longer take devices that fall under the act including computers, televisions and monitors.  The law also requires that manufacturers of the covered devices provide for the collection, transportation and recycling of electronics.  They can do this through one-day events, collection programs, or mail-back programs.  Manufacturers must also register the required devices with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and include labels on the devices.

DIPAB and similar products along with increased regulation may help curb the effects of electronics on our environment.

To view the paper on DIPAB, click here.

To read more on the PA electronics recycling law, click here.

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