American researchers have developed electronic devices that dissolve in water leaving behind only harmless products.
The team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has demonstrated functioning building blocks for integrated circuits that could be used in clinical medicine to create various sensors and devices that dissolve inside the body after serving its purpose.
Such materials could in future also be used to build degradable consumer gadgets that would help tackle the growing electronic waste problem.
“Our most recent combined developments in devices that address real challenges in clinical medicine and in advanced, high volume manufacturing strategies suggest a promising future for this new class of technology,” said Professor John A. Rogers, who is leading a research group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Materials Science, which is developing the disruptive concept.
The team has been developing experimental biomedical devices that could reduce the risk of post-surgical infections. Among the innovative devices they created are experimental implantable monitors for measuring the electrical activity of a human brain to aid rehabilitation from traumatic injuries or electrical simulators to accelerate bone growth. They are also experimenting with designs that could be used for programmed drug delivery.
The researchers have to address multiple issues during the development. They have to make sure the devices dissolve only after they have fulfilled their purpose and that all the chemical elements they degrade into are harmless for the human body.
Such systems would not only remove the need of additional surgeries for patients, but if used in consumer electronics, they would help create a new generation of green electronics with minimal environmental footprint.