Corn-based phone to save Earth, pockets

NEC's N701iECO handset is already on sale in Japan and is made from fermented corn in part.

In the latest of its vaguely far-fetched, but admirable, pieces of green research, NEC Japan has developed a plastic made from vegetables that is not only environmentally friendly, but which can conduct heat better than stainless steel.

The new plastic is called polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic and is derived from fermented corn, which, when compared with oil-based plastics, results in lower CO2 emissions in product manufacturing. Equally significant is the high heat conductivity inherent to PLA.

Cooler gadgets coming soon

Using the conductive plastic to make the body of a mobile phone or laptop PC is likely to eliminate the need for heatsinks or fans, thereby opening the door to lighter, thinner electronic gadgets.

The NEC press release is quaintly coy on the subject: "Recently, small-sized electronic products such as mobile phones and personal computers have suffered heat-release issues due to an increase in the amount of heat being generated from electronic parts."

What it means to say, of course, is that the new material could also prevent phones and laptop computers from spontaneously combusting and injuring users, which is bad for all concerned.

NEC claims it will commercialise the PLA bioplastic starting a year from now. This is likely to be in Japanese mobile phones at first, as the company already makes a phone, the N701iECO (above), with a different corn-based plastic casing for NTT DoCoMo.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.