A new class of electronics can dissolve and disappear on a pre-set schedule, within a few minutes or a few years, depending on when you want them to go away. They could live in the body and deliver drugs, they could stick on the exterior of buildings or tanks, and they can become compost instead of metal scrap--in other words, they turn the common conception of electronics completely upside down.
Transient electronics, as they've been dubbed, are a combination of silk and silicon designed to work seamlessly in our bodies and in our environments. In a new study, researchers built a thermal device designed to monitor infection in a rodent and a 64-pixel digital camera--all from dissolvable material.
Suk-Won Hwang of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and several colleagues made circuits out of silkworm cocoons, superthin sheets of porous silicon, and electrodes made of magnesium. All these materials are biocompatible and because they're extremely thin and soluble, they dissolve even in minute quantities of water. The silk is the main structural scaffold, and it determines the dissolution rate of the entire device. Biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto at Tufts University, a coauthor, figured out how to adjust the silk protein's properties so it degrades at a wide range of intervals. The silk is dissolved and then re-crystallized, and by controlling the crystallization, the researchers can control the rate at which it dissolves again.
In a major test of the platform's biocompatibility, the team engineered a silk biomedical implant in a mouse. The device was programmed to break down after a certain length of time in which it was exposed to bodily fluids, and then it was doped with an antibacterial compound. The team implanted it in an infected surgical site and after three weeks, the infection was reduced and small residual pieces of the implant could be detected. Here's a list of other items they've built so far: transient transistors; diodes; wireless power coils; temperature and strain sensors; photodetectors; solar cells; radio oscillators and antennas; and digital cameras. There is a huge array of possible uses for this technology, which is partly funded by DARPA.
Even when they're likely to be obsolete the moment you buy them, modern electronics are built to last. When they're no longer needed, they pile up in our houses, recycling centers or landfills. Transient electronics could be a solution--a device can be programmed to last a few years, and then completely dissolve when it's rendered obsolete. The research appears in this week's issue of Science.
I don't kniow about everyone else, but this seems a bit of a waste outside of the medical industry.
Don't crucify me for it, I'm just saying...
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
This is just the first way we've discovered a possibility for eco-friendly electronics. Yes it currently really only has benefits for medicine, but think about what is possible with this tech. Instead of mountains of electronic waste, we might have a small piles of plastic casings (which should be 100% recyclable). This is the exact type of thinking we need to make our footprints smaller and smaller.
Planned obsolesce sneaks its ugly head into electronics, forcing unnecessary consumer upgrades, without the consumer knowing why his electronics failed....... sheesh.
*drops phone in the toilet*
"Quick grab it before it's rui.....oh crap, it's gone"
In all seriousness though, not everything that's disolvable is 'eco friendly'. Methylmercury disolves, and it's a neurotoxin. We may lessen the piles of e-waste sitting on the surface, but you have to wonder where the rest of it goes. Here's a hint: drinking water. But hey, out of sight, out of mind.
So out of the four comments, only one of the authors has actually read and understood the article.
As early as the byline the article speculates on the the possibilities beyond medical tech.
Assuming you don't habitually toss your electronics in water, you should be fine. If you do, I suspect you have bigger problems.
Nice straw man you've built there. Can I stick him in my field to scare away the crows?
My point if you care was about 'planned engineer obsolesce', which out auto engineers and other manufacturing companies for decades make good use of and this would be another tool in their box, to tactfully ensure electronics do not last as long as they should as well as their mechanical devices.
The above tecnology 'might' be a good and uselful thing for some and for others a useful tool for ....
Read the link below.
Actually this just makes me think we'd end up with more waste. As in we couldn't control where the dissolved remnants of devices would end up if this is used to somehow deal with e-waste. Little to no chance of recycling the materials. Only useful in medical applications.
There are huge industrial benefits to this. Billion dollar benefits.
1. Separation of mercury from natural gas.
2. Refining processes in oil, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
3. Nanolevel computer repair for our newer technologies.
I could come up with more billions and trillions in uses, but my dog wants to play right now, and I ain't on your dime.
I can see benefits to medical and other electroniv areas, providing it works.
Around here, we have government sponsored hazardous waste sites, and electronic items are on their list. Think of the bazillions of obsolete/failed devices that get tossed -- or do you still have your eight track.
(Just as an aside, if you drop your cellphone in the porcelain water fountain, there's a good chance that it's toast anyway)
I do wonder about the interconnects. One of the big issue with electronics has been the solder. We now have the fabulous ( and somewhat clunky) lead free stuff for regular connections. This article doesn't mention what they're using with the magnesium interconnects.