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Biodegradable semiconductor PCBs receive “extra” funding


Jiva Materials Ltd., a startup company, and the University of Portsmouth have been honored with the Knowledge Transfer Partnership award by Innovate UK for their collaboration on “Knowledge Transfer to Develop Soluboard,” a biodegradable printed circuit board (PCB) in the semiconductor industry.

PCBs, widely used in the semiconductor industry, contain heavy metals, have low biodegradability, contribute to carbon emissions, and pose environmental pollution challenges. This issue has been a significant concern for the semiconductor industry, prompting companies to seek effective solutions. The current optimal method for PCB disposal is biodegradation, known for its cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and minimal secondary pollution.

Biodegradable PCBs are the optimal solution for the semiconductor industry

Jiva Materials Ltd. asserts that electronics contribute to the global issue of consumerism and electronic waste, with an average of 7.5 kg of electronic waste per person worldwide annually. In which, PCBs are believed to constitute 8% of the total electronic waste.

In early 2024, Jiva and the University of Portsmouth announced the Soluboard development method – a biodegradable semiconductor PCB awarded the KTP prize. Founded in 2017 by Jonathan Sawston, the current CEO, Jiva received support from the UK government’s technology support agency. While the exact value and duration of the KTP award remain confidential, a typical KTP project provides a support fund ranging from £80,000 to £100,000 per year.

Soluboard is a recyclable rigid PCB made from natural fibers that can be dissolved with hot water in a controlled environment. It aims to provide a sustainable alternative to epoxy glass fiber boards (conventional PCBs). When conventional semiconductor PCBs reach the end of their lifespan, they are typically sent to landfills or incinerated, with the long-term pollutants, it cause adverse impacts on the environment.

Semiconductor industry

Fiberglass circuit board (regular PCB)

Jiva claims the Soluboard can be supplied as a copper-coated double-sided PCB with plated through-hole (PTH) technology. It is compatible with standard industrial PCB manufacturing processes and has electrical properties equivalent to thin boards that are currently available in the market.

Additionally, Soluboard is announced to be lighter than conventional PCB materials, offering both commercial benefits and reduced carbon emissions. Its dissolvability also facilitates the recovery of valuable materials wasted during semiconductor manufacturing.

According to KTP, Jiva will collaborate with Professor Hom Dhakal and his team from the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering at the University of Portsmouth. The team will assess and characterize the properties of natural fibers, such as hemp, flax, and jute, for potential use in Soluboard. KTP aims to expedite the development and commercialization of advanced versions of Soluboard, providing numerous benefits to the semiconductor industry as a whole.

In July 2023, Jiva successfully secured a £1 million investment in a funding round led by Katapult VC and Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2, supported by Sorbon Investments, Armstrong Capital Management, and Moonstone. Additionally, Jiva also reached an agreement with Infineon to use Soluboard for semiconductor demonstration boards.