Infineon Technologies AG is taking another important step towards a greener future by introducing Soluboard, a recyclable and biodegradable PCB substrate based on natural fibres and a halogen-free polymer. UK start-up Jiva Materials developed the product, which helps lower the electronics industry's carbon footprint.
Soluboard's plant-based PCB material is created from natural fibres with a far lower carbon footprint than conventional glass-based fibres. The organic structure is enclosed in a non-toxic polymer that dissolves when immersed in hot water, leaving only compostable organic material. This eradicates PCB waste and enables the electronic components soldered to the board to be recovered and recycled. By using the material for its demo and evaluation boards, Infineon is making another important contribution to testing sustainable designs in the electronics industry.
"For the first time, a recyclable, biodegradable PCB material is being used in the design of electronics for consumer and industrial applications – a milestone towards a greener future," said Andreas Kopp, head of Product Management Discretes at Infineon's Green Industrial Power Division. "We are also actively researching the reusability of discrete power devices at the end of their service life, which would be an additional significant step towards promoting a circular economy in the electronics industry."
"Adopting a water-based recycling process could lead to higher yields in the recovery of valuable metals," said Jonathan Swanston, CEO and co-founder of Jiva Materials. "In addition, replacing FR-4 PCB materials with Soluboard would result in a 60% reduction in carbon emissions – more specifically, 10.5kg of carbon and 620g of plastic can be saved per square meter of PCB."
Currently, the company is employing the biodegradable material to lower the carbon footprint of demo and evaluation boards – but is also exploring the prospect of utilising the material for all boards to make the electronics industry more sustainable. In doing so, it is following the European Commission's "Green Deal" agenda, which strives to attain climate neutrality by 2050 by making circularity the mainstream in our lives and accelerating the greening of the EU economy. Also, the company is committed to the responsible collection and recycling of electronic products manufactured by Infineon in accordance with the EU Directive on WEEE.
The company has created three different demo boards using the technology and plans to expand its offering over the next few years. More than 500 units are already used to showcase the company's power discretes portfolio, including one board that offers components specifically for refrigerator applications. Based on the results of ongoing stress tests, the company plans to guide the reuse and recycling of power semiconductors removed from Soluboards, which could greatly extend the lifetime of the electronic components.
The research will also provide the company with a fundamental understanding of the design and reliability challenges customers face with the new material in their core applications. In particular, customers will profit from the new knowledge as it will contribute to developing sustainable designs.