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Ditching Silicon For Transistors Made Of Human Blood And Mucus

Gross, yes. But also practical: Biological-based electrical components could be the solution to our e-waste problem.

Electronic waste is a growing problem—not just in developed countries, but in the many developing countries that rely on cell phones and other devices. Even though some electronic companies offer impressive takeback programs, 85% of e-waste never gets recycled. There’s no easy solution, but biodegradable electronic components could help.

A group of researchers from Tel Aviv University are working on protein-based transistors made up of human blood, mucus, and milk. When proteins from these three substances are applied to a base material, they create a semiconducting film—a complete circuit with both optical and electronic capabilities.

Why blood, mucus, and milk? Milk makes up the "building blocks" of the transistor (these proteins are strong in harsh environments), mucus protein keeps different colored dyes separate, and blood’s oxygen-absorbing ability makes it possible to add chemicals to the semiconductor to create different capabilities.

The biodegradable transistors could one day be used in small, flexible devices—think biosensors, tablets, microprocessors, and screens. And unlike silicon wafers, these transistors don’t break if bent.

This is just the first step on the way to entirely biodegradable electronics, which the Tel Aviv researchers are also working on. No word on whether that means your iPad 7 will one day contain blood and other human-derived substances.