Key Research Areas

Technologies for resource-efficient electronic systems

Reliability management along the product life cycle
© Fraunhofer IZM

Increasingly complex requirements are being placed on the environmental compatibility of electronic systems. In the past, the main considerations were energy conservation, some heavy metals in the assembly, and certain flame retardants. Today the environmental discussion is focussed on critical resources (e.g. rare earth metals and conflict materials) in view of foreseeable supply bottlenecks and the environmental impact of mining, as well as on halogenated flame retardants.

The demands for increased resource efficiency present special challenges for technology developers in times of depleted resources and rising prices. One possibility is the use of bio-based polymers for casings and printed circuit boards in order to conserve fossil resources: The new materials must meet the high technical requirements for uses in electronics, should not have a worse environmental impactthan fossil-based plastics, and must be available for processing at acceptable costs.

The goal of the research is the more efficient use of fossil fuels, metals and other resources by means of innovation in the production processes, during use, and/or at the end of the life-cycle (including recycling). Technology development can be approached at various levels: Electronic components, individual products or groups of devices, such as LED products. The complex interactions and interfaces require a systemic approach and thinking outside the box.

Technologies for resource efficient electronic systems concentrate on:

  • Solutions for the efficient use of resources by means of substitution, increased reliability, longer durability and design for recycling
  • Evaluation and comparison of technologies and materials in terms of resource efficiency
  • Minimising the environmental impact of processes in packaging and interconnection technology

Estimation of the environmental impact of subsequent commercialproduction (Lab to Fab)

Projects relating to Technologies for Resource-efficient Electronic Systems

A renewable resource for electronic applications (E-Lignin)

Lignin is a by-product of the manufacture of cellulose or paper. In the product, various applications are investigated in electronics: lignin-based printed circuit boards, screen print frames and drilling backplates.

Cycling resources embedded in systems containing light emitting diodes (cycLED)

The project cycLED aims at optimising the flows of resources through all life-cycle phases of LED products.


Integrated approaches for recovering trace metals and improving the return from waste electrical and electronic equipment (UPgrade) Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is an important source of raw materials for key trace metals. In the UPgrade project, researchers are working to develop new and improved processes and production chains for the enrichment of metals from WEEE and WEEE components at all stages of the recycling chain.

Bio-derived plastics for electronics (Bio X)

Most major producers of mobile phones and laptop computers now offer products with casingsmade with bio-derived plastics and feature this prominently in their marketing. The focus is not on the biodegradability but on assuring the long-term availability ofdurable and reliable materials.


Innovation and Technology Analysis of Autarkic Distributed Microsystems (ITA AVM) Process and condition monitoring by wireless sensor networks can benefit the environment by significantly improving the efficiency of technical processes across many different applications.

Zero Watt Inside: Preventing Excess Power Consumption by Network-Enabled Equipment (ZeWin)

The ZeWin system ensures that network devices only consume power when they are actually in use. The system replaces the conventional switching hub and switches network devices on and off as required (0 watt).