Wednesday, October 03, 2012

"Transient electronics"

Awesome New Electronics Can Dissolve and Disappear When They're No Longer Needed

"Transient electronics" could deliver drugs, monitor buildings and more. Could they be an eco-friendly solution for obsolescent tech?

Dissolving Circuit As soon as it comes in contact with water, the circuit starts to break down. Fiorenzo Omenetto
A new class of electronics can dissolve anddisappear on a pre-set schedule, within a few minutes or a few years, depending onwhen 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 ourbodies 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.

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