Green Materials for Technology - Makers+ (2022)

Green Materials for Technology - Makers+ (1)

Green Materials for Technology

First introduction

We live surrounded by electronic devices and we can no longer do without them. However, we do not usually think about the consequences of their production, use and our consumption model. Even when we do, we tend to be unaware of the full complexity of the process.

Our use of electronic devices presents us with an ethical dilemma; they are indispensable to our daily lives but also pose a serious problem for the environment. Through the whole lifecycle of these products, although to a greater extent in the initial and final phases. Technology is one of the main sources of pollution, even if we don’t think about it every day when we use electronic devices. For example, did you know that one PC wastes at least 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemical products and 1,5 t of water?

If you want to learn more about materials used in technology and their environmental impact, this unit could be useful. Learning about the environmental cost of technology is important when you are using a makerspace.

Practical relevance

– This is what you will need the knowledge and skills for

You will learn how digital devices affect the environment, the environmental cost of a PC and what kind of new green materials can be adopted in electronics manufacturing. In this way, we can get an idea of ​​all the resources that are spent on average to manufacture the technology we use every day.

Overview of learning objectives and competences

In the first part of this module you will learn some important facts about how technology contributes to pollution and how technological development can impact the environment. You will gain more information and awareness about how technological devices can contribute to pollution. In the second part you will have an introduction to new materials in industries which can be used to reduce greenhouse gasses and learn about suitable green materials that can replace other more polluting ones.

Required skills for this module

Basic computer skills will be more than enough for this module. Learning to learn, an interest in environmental protection and curiosity are important to complete this training.

  • Green Materials for Technology
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Green Materials for Technology

When it comes to going “green” with electronic products, the goal is to minimize energy use and have less of an impact on the environment than traditional electronics. This could mean less energy used while mining materials and manufacturing the device, or it could mean that lifetime usage of the products made from these materials requires less energy.

Less impact on the environment typically entails less toxicityas well, especially after disposal. Recycling is a big key to achieving this. E-waste is a growing problem, its dangers stemming from elements such as lead, cadmium, copper, beryllium, barium, and chromium entering the ecosystem through improperly discarded electronics.

Many of these elements are used in circuit boards and electrical parts such as computer chips, touchscreens, and wiring. While it may be cheaper to use materials considered to be relatively more toxic options, many electronics producers are choosing to invest in greener materials at the behest of the consumer.

What are some "green" materials used in electronics?

Green materials come in many forms. They can range from degradable circuit boards and organic electronics to metals that are infinitely recyclable and reusable. Organic and inorganic materials can both be considered green, depending on the type of material and how it is implemented.

You will receive some information about how digital devices affect the environment, how much a PC costs in terms of planet and what kind of new green materials can be adopted. In this way, we can get an idea of ​​all the resources that are spent on average to manufacture a PC or even a microchip. You will have an introduction to new materials in industries that can be used to reduce greenhouse gasses, and learn about the right green materials that can replace more polluting ones, reducing pollution. The acquired skills will be essential for a better knowledge of green materials, substitutable by other contaminants. You will learn how, in addition to being better for the planet, greener materials often work just as well as their cheaper and more problematic alternatives. In addition you will be able to know if the quality is the same, any company would be smart to commercialize the most ecological materials used in its products. Lastly, increasing awareness and being aware, as a consumer and professional, of how your purchases affect the environment, and showing the environmental benefits of green materials will often lead to higher sales.


Almost all materials can be somehow used and worked within the makerspace. The only constraint is the knowledge of which material can be used with a specific machine, depending on the material properties. For most panels of many thickness are available, which might limit the usage of a specific type of machine.

Wood & derivatives (laser cutting, cnc milling)

Material Usable with Description

Paper,Cardboard or alveolarcardboard

Laser cutter,(vinyl cutter)

Easy to use and cheap, the cardboard can fulfill many use cases, from the architecturalmodel to the element of decoration. It is also convenient for prototype test preparationbefore moving on to the final piece and final material.

MDF (HDF)Medium DensityFiberboard

Laser cutter, CNC mill

This panel coming from a continuous industrial process is made of wood fibers and asynthetic binder based on urea-formaldehyde resin that is subjected to temperature andpressure constraints. MDF is a versatile panel, especially found in interior design anddecoration because it can be painted easily. It is relatively resistant, but fears water and moisture

Solid Wood

Laser cutter, CNC mill

Many kinds of solid wood can be used for most of the machining, according to the density and mass of the wood.Oak, pine, balsa, birch, etc.


Laser cutter, CNC mill

Plywood consists of several thin layers of wood glued in odd numbers, the orientation of the fibers is alternated to increase the resistance. Compared to solid wood, the weight of plywood is increased because of glues whose density is higher than wood. Major wooddefects are eliminated during veneer preparation and minor defects are scattered throughout the panel. Plywood panels are used for their decorative and aesthetic quality, their flatness and dimensional stability, their thermal and acoustic insulation performances (reinforced by machining), their resistance to xylophagous insects and fungi (thanks to the nature essences).


Laser cutter, CNC mill

Presented as a simple or compressed panel it is used as a thermal and acoustic coating. Its great flexibility makes it easily bendable.Average density 200kg / m3

Plastics (3d printing, laser cutting and cnc)

Material Usable with Description

ABS Acrylonitrile, butadiene styrene

3d printermilling machine

ABS is a thermoplastic polymer having a good impact strength, relatively rigid, lightweight and moldable (for example : LEGO block).


3d printer

Polycarbonate is another thermoplastic. It offers accuracy, durability and stability, creating strong parts that withstand functional testing. It also has superior mechanical properties to ABS and a number of other thermoplastics.


3d printer

Polycarbonate-ABS is one of the most widely used industrial thermoplastics. PC-ABS offers the most desirable properties of both materials - the superior strengthand the heat resistance of the PC and the flexibility of ABS. PC-ABS blends are commonly used in automotive, electronics and telecommunication applications.

PLAPolylactic Acid

3d printer,laser cutter

PLA is a fully biodegradable polymer used in food packaging (mineral water, fruitsand vegetables, etc), to replace plastic bags distributed in shops, or in the manufacture of many objects injected, extruded or thermoformed. It is also used in surgery where sutures are made with biodegradable polymers. PLA can be obtainedfrom corn starch. As a biopolymer it can be also cut with the laser cutter.

PMMAPolymethyl Methacrylate

Laser cuttermillingmachine

PMMA (better known under its first commercial name “Plexiglas”) is a transparent thermoplastic whose monomer is methyl methacrylate. Solid and resistant, it often replaces the glass for many reasons: simplicity, exceptional optical property,superior light transmission to glass in the near UV, transparency, clarity, gloss.Refractive index of 1.49. Its glass transition temperature (Tg) is between 48 ° C forsyndiotactic PMMA and 160 ° C for isotactic PMMA. The majority of PMMA on theThe market today has a Tg between 90 ° C and 105 ° C.


3d printer

PVA is a thermoplastic mostly used as support material for 3d printers as it is soluble in water for easy support removal.

PVC Polyvinyl Chloride

MillingmachineVinyl plotter

PVC (also known as “vinyl”) is the world's third-most widely produced syntheticplastic polymer. PVC is characterized by being ductile and resistant; It presentsdimensional stability and environmental resistance. In addition, it is recyclable by several methods.


laser cutter

PA is a polymer that is translucent, chemically inert, soft and non brittle. It has a tendency to melt a lot when laser cut.


laser cutterthermoforming3d printer

Polystyrene is a very common plastic used for example for disposable plastic cupsor plates. It has a good impact resistance.


3d printerlaser cutter

Nylon is a plastic with great chemical resistance, very flexible, and translucent.


3d printerlaser cutter

Useful to stamp, rubber can be used for any kind of seal, its shape memory makes it a good material for flexible parts. It is an elastomer that can be obtained either bytransforming the latex secreted by certain plants, or synthetically from monomers derived from fossil fuels.

Stone and Minerals (laser cutting)

Since stone is a bit hard to form with the machines commonly available in a makerspace this material is not as common as the ones before.

Material Usable with Description


Laser cutter

Thin layers can be laser cut, otherwise engraved.


(Laser cutter)Cnc mill

Marble is a relatively soft stone type, it can, therefore, be milled with a CNC machine. Laser cutter can engrave it.


(Laser cutter)3D printer

Ceramic powder in combination with a heating process afterwards can be used in a 3D-printing process. Ceramic can be engraved with a laser cutter.


(Laser cutter)(3D- printer)

Engraving with a laser cutter is possible. There are also proof-of-concept 3D printer, which can print with glass.

Other common materials, used for the makerspace, are made with:

Metal (CNC milling, engraving)
Metals can be used for conductive traces, mechanical construction, and decorative elements.

Curing Fluids (Casting)
Hardening fluids are used for example in UV-curing 3D printer like the Form2, but mostly to either make a mold for mass production of an object, or together with a textile matrix to make strong and lightweight composite materials

Textiles (sewing, laser cutting, 3D printing)
Textiles can be used as part of the matrix of rigid composites and for more common use cases such as clothing, soft forms. and wearable. For the latter case, textiles are combined with conductive materials and 3D printed on them.

Glues, oils (Assembly ; Finishing)
Different types of glues are used for assembly, depending on the materials which have to be connected. On the glues itself are combinations of and materials listed which can be connected with the glue.

Green Material: Biomaterials

Biomaterials are becoming more useful as electronics become more wearable, stretchable, and integrated with organic substances. Silk is especially useful in bio-sensor and implantable thermoelectric wireless switching applications. In one interesting example, a team from Florida State University placed silk in a vacuum chamber and coated it with gold, creating a hybrid fiber measuring 4% the width of a human hair.

Green Materials for Technology - Makers+ (2)

Since standard wires made of gold or other metals aren’t elastic enough, they tend to lose contact with soft organic crystals as temperatures change. The gold coated silk changes this, combining the conductivity of gold with the flexibility of silk. Biomaterials are also used, they are used to make devices to replace a body part or function in safely, economically and physiologically acceptable.

Composition of Biomaterials

Ceramic: they have good biocompatibility, resistance to corrosion and chemical inertness. However, they present problems when faced with high impact stresses, they are inelastic, have a high density and are difficult to produce. Examples are aluminum oxide, calcium aluminates, titanium oxides, and some carbons.

Polymers: they have the advantage of being elastic, low density and easy to manufacture. Its main disadvantage is low mechanical resistance and degradation over time. Some examples are Teflon, nylon, dacron and silicones.

Metals and alloys: have high resistance to impact and wear. However, they are of low biocompatibility, feasible to be corroded in physiological media, high density, and difficulty in achieving connection with soft connective tissues.

Compounds: Some examples are nanocomposites, metal-carbon or metal-nitrogen ceramics, and complex intermetallic alloys.

Natural minerals

Green Tips

Ecology and Technology: Tips and ideas for a more responsible use with the Environment

    1. Choose the most convenient computer or device for our needs.
    2. Savings and energy efficiency. For example, laptops consume less power than desktops and tablets less than laptops. There are many examples of highly recommended habits to make a more ecological use of our devices, to spend less electricity, ink and paper.
    3. Consultation of labels and environmental reports. The labeling of computers and devices offers us very important information when deciding on the most ecological model.
    4. Reuse when possible. Managing to extend the life of our computer or device means saving money and generating less waste and less consumption of natural resources.
    5. Recycle when they stop working.

3D printing and ecology initiatives

3D printing and ecology have gone hand in hand almost since the beginning of additive manufacturing technologies. Being an additive method, suppress the generation of waste produced with the use of other substantive methods. In addition to this, many researchers have found in 3D printing a way to promote the circular economy and reuse certain materials to end plastic, electronic, food waste …

Below, you can see ecological initiatives related to this technique

Save 3D printed coral reefs.
3D concrete printing specialist XtreeE installed the first 3D-printed coral reef in the Calanques National Park in southern France. Your mission? restore an ecological habitat in danger of disappearance. Together with their partner Seaboost, they combined their knowledge of large format 3D printing and marine biology to create this impressive reef 3D printed from concrete

Francophil, developing bioplastic filaments
It is a French startup that has developed 3D filaments based on bioplastics called: NaturePlast. These filaments are derived from various industries allowing certain products to be reused, thus the filament of mussel shells, oysters and even scallops arrives. They also reuse wheat and coffee waste.

Green Materials for Technology - Makers+ (3)

Print your City, a European initiative
Print your City uses large format 3D printing and converts plastic waste into urban furniture. The project was initially launched in Amsterdam, where several 50-kilo banks were created with the waste produced by the city’s inhabitants.

Precious Plastic, a recycling center anywhere
Precious Plastic aims to fight against plastic pollution. He has developed machines that allow anyone to recycle plastic and organizes meetings to explain how to use them. These solutions include a grinder, an extrusion system to create a 3D printing filament, an injection and compression machine.

ProtoCycler, recycling for your 3D printer
The ProtoCycler machine was developed by the Canadian company ReDeTec, which wanted to reduce the amount of waste associated with 3D printing after finding that a large amount of material ended up in the trash. Therefore, he created a 3D printer recycling system that allows you to manufacture your own plastic filament from recycled waste or virgin pellets.

Some innovative solutions in order to avoid pollution in the field of technology

Green technology is beginning to come true.
Polluting less and taking care of the planet affects people who specifically demand a greener world also in technologies. It is a decision decided by the circular economy, which insists on the idea of ​​recycling materials and products that have traditionally been deposited in the garbage bag

A study published in September by the European Economic and Social Committee on the importance of technological recycling, estimates that today there are around 700 million mobiles in Europe that are stored unused and should not be discarded or reused. The refurbishment of mobile phones is one of the solutions proposed in this report to thus reduce CO2 emissions. According to this same study, within ten years it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions by 29% if their useful life is prolonged by one year and by 43% if it is prolonged by two years.

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By reusing each of these devices, an average emission of 30 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere would be avoided and approximately 12 liters of clean water would be saved. Taking these data into account, the reuse of the millions of mobiles that Europeans currently keep in their drawers would avoid the emission of 21 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and save 8.4 billion liters of water each year.

Bioeconomy and biotechnology
It is the great idea of ​​connected sustainability. One of the great challenges is to recover the discarded materials as soon as possible. Another important trend is measures to use living organisms to produce other reusable goods such as biofuels and energy.

The importance of recycling materials

The importance of recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is paramount because its pollution capacity is very high due to the heavy metals they include.

Elements like cadmium, bromine, mercury, chromium or lead are especially harmful for water and air; not to mention the diseases that the human body can cause if it suffers from poisoning.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable to guarantee that its recycling, taking into account the constant increase in this waste, is a matter of utmost importance.

Around the planet, some 50 million tons of electronic and electrical waste are created annually, and forecasts are that by 2050, 120 million tons will be reached.

Such numbers would not be alarming if the recycling of waste was adequate. However, less than 20% of that waste is formally recycled. The remaining percentage is divided into what is dumped in landfills, recycled informally or ends up in less technologically developed countries, where their citizens will end up being exposed to the metals mentioned above.

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Recycling regulations
This situation has led organizations to national governments to take measures for the correct recycling of such waste. These measures affect everyone, who must adopt WEEE recycling plans to comply with regulations such as the European one, which has set itself the goal of increasing reuse and recycling by 65% ​​by 2035.


What have I learned in this module?

Through this module, you have been able to raise awareness about the need to care for our ecosystem and its importance.

You now know about different ecological and common materials for the realization of the fab-lab and industry 4.0, and how these materials can replace others much more polluting, which benefits the environment. You have discovered its properties, and its functionality.

You have known Some innovative solutions in order to avoid pollution in the field of technology, as well as real statistics, and the need to innovate in green.

The importance of recycling materials, key to achieving, an improvement in our ecosystem, as well as an improvement in the quality of water and air, essential for health, and protecting the earth.

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We have also learned that “green” electronics is becoming more ubiquitous

As consumer demand continues to grow for more environmentally friendly products, and the line continues to blur electronic and organic products, “green” materials will become even more prevalent in electronic production.

Whether in the form of wearable technology or greener products, we are likely to see electronic products that are continually better for the environment. As demand for “green products” continues to grow, expect the electronics industry to appease the consumer and, in some cases, to improve its own products as well.


Atom: The atom is the smallest constituent unit of matter that has the properties of a chemical element.Each solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is made up of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are microscopic

Barium: A chemical element that is a silvery-white soft metal, is alkaline and combines very easily with oxygen.

Beryllium: Chemical element with atomic number 4, atomic mass 9,01 and symbol Be; It is a very light gray metal that is obtained from beryl and is used in the manufacture of aircraft and X-ray tubes, in nuclear reactors and in computers, lasers, television, etc.

Composition: Set of ordered elements

Cooling systems: The so-called refrigeration systems or refrigeration systems correspond to mechanical arrangements that use the thermodynamic properties of matter to transfer thermal energy in the form of heat between two or more sources, as required

CO2: CO2, or carbon dioxide, is a colorless, dense, and poorly reactive gas, which is part of the layer of the atmosphere closest to Earth. It has a great impact on the so-called greenhouse effect and its concentration has increased in the last 160 years.

Environment: The environment, environment or natural environment encompasses all living and non-living beings that interact naturally, which means that in this case it is not artificial. The term is most often applied to Earth or parts of Earth

Pollution: Environmental pollution or pollution is the introduction of substances or other physical elements into a medium, which makes it unsafe or unfit for use.The medium can be an ecosystem, a physical medium or a living being. The pollutant can be a chemical, energy

Fab Lab: It is a space for the production of physical objects on a personal or local scale that groups computers-controlled machines capable of manufacturing almost anything we can imagine

Glass: Hard, transparent material, used to make windows, bottles, and other objects

Green materials: A construction material is considered green when its extraction, production, operation and final disposal process has a low environmental impact, is economically viable, is manufactured by local labor, and during its useful life does not harm the quality of life. of living things that interact in their context

Materials contaminants: A substance found in a medium to which it does not belong or that does so at levels that can cause (adverse) effects on health or the environment.

Polymers: Chemicals that result from a polymerization process.

“proteins, starch or natural rubber are polymers synthesized by living beings”

Recycle: Recycling is a process where the raw materials that make up the materials that we use in our daily lives, such as paper, glass, aluminum, plastic, etc., once their useful life cycle is finished, are transformed again into new materials.

Smartphone: Cell phone with touch screen, which allows the user to connect to the internet, manage email accounts and install other applications and resources as a small computer

Storage Systems: Storage systems are those in which the goods or load units are placed on racks, to optimize space (surface / height). Shelves are independent structures of the building that are fixed to the floor or ceiling and the merchandise is deposited on them.

3D Printing: 3D printing is a group of addition manufacturing technologies where a three-dimensional object is created by superimposing successive layers of material


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