Questions for ‘Balsa wood transistors could usher in ‘greener’ electronics’ 

a hand holding a simple balsa wood toy airplane

Sturdy and lightweight, balsa wood has become a favorite of hobbyists, especially those building model planes. But with a chemical treatment, this wood can become a building block of electrical circuits.

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To accompany Balsa wood transistors could usher in ‘greener’ electronics’  


Before Reading:

  1. A transistor is a crucial building block of computers and other electronic devices. Consider the similarity of the word transistor to words such as transfer and transition. Based on these similarities, make a guess about what a “transistor” might do with electrical current running through it. Explain your reasoning in one sentence.
  2. Imagine a new generation of computers were released made entirely of wood. To what extent would this surprise you? Would you consider this a more typical or unusual use for wood products? Briefly explain what you know about this material that helped you in coming up with your answer.

During Reading:

  1. What is the role of transistors in modern electronics?
  2. What does it mean to say the new transistor is a “proof of concept”?
  3. From what material are transistors usually made?
  4. Regarding the wood’s structure, what did Linköping researchers achieve by removing the lignin? After removing the lignin, what did researchers do next to modify the wood?
  5. How many pieces of treated wood go into making one transistor?
  6. List three types of wood on which researchers tested this new technique. According to Van Chinh “Robert” Tran, which wood type performed best?
  7. What characteristic of this wood type did Tran point to as a possible explanation for its better performance?  

After Reading:

  1. Describe one way “green” electronics such as those described in this story benefit the environment. What is one way this benefit might also help you personally?
  2. Tran mentions that the Linköping team has “discussed growing the transistor inside the tree.” Imagine a world where computer parts could be grown inside living trees. Consider how being able to grow living electronics might open new possibilities in technology. How might such a world look different from what we have today? Feel free to be creative! Come up with two specific ways that such a world might look different from the world in which we now live.