Feeds

Paper computers: Not mere pulp fiction

That’s torn it

Intelligent flash storage arrays

IT printing

Now let’s put these issues together – the evergreen potential of microscopic, high-resolution printing, the biological sustainability of managed (but unfarmed) plant life, and our increasing dependency upon short-life electronics whose components are largely unrecyclable.

PARIS space programme

21st century paper tech: El Reg's own space programme in 2010

To my typically confused mind, I think there may be a way of using embarrassingly obsolete technology such as print-on-paper to save the Earth. Instead of printing circuits onto plastic, print them onto paper.

According to research engineers in the Nanoelectronics Lab at the University of Cincinnati, paper has a lot going for it as a substrate for electronics: “It’s lightweight, flexible and biodegradable, and it comes from a renewable resource.” You can do a lot to customise the surface properties and strength of paper and, of course, it can be made stiff or flexible, as you wish.

Getting down to the detail, there are seemingly endless challenges to keep the manufacturing cost down, even though the material cost should be much lower than plastic. Another problem is trying to gain commercial backing for a concept that sounds like the kind of nutty idea you’d giggle at on Tomorrow’s World: “Five years from now, we will be wearing paper pants and eating meals extracted from dragonfly buttocks.”

Possibly the most obvious limitation of paper-based electronics – paper deteriorates quickly – is its most attractive proposition. Given that tablets, smartphones and other gadgets tend to get ditched and replaced in a nine-monthly cycle, built-in biodegradable obsolescence should be a boon to both manufacturers and consumers alike. Make use of organic materials to form the semiconductor ‘ink’ and you have the ultimate in recyclable, disposable electronics.

The only drawback is that it’ll be difficult to sell the things on eBay when you’re bored of them. By then, they won’t be worth (he he) the paper they’re printed on. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He is worried that ten years from now we’ll be laughing at how people who ought to have known better seriously believed that there was a big future for tablets – like William Woollard’s paper pants.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD TO DIE, and this is WHY
Apple, er, couldn’t get parts for HDD models
Apple spent just ONE DOLLAR beefing up the latest iPad Air 2
New iPads look a lot like the old one. There's a reason for that
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Microsoft fitness bands slapped on wrists: All YOUR HEALTH DATA are BELONG TO US
Wearable will deliver 'actionable insights for healthier living'
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
Back to the ... drawing board: 'Hoverboard' will disappoint Marty McFly wannabes
Buzzing board (and some future apps) leave a lot to be desired
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?