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Dissolvable Electronics and Transient Technology

The University of Illinois’s material scientist John Rogers and his collaborators are working on ‘transient’ technology that safely dissolves with water, and is predicted to significantly benefit the environment as well as medicinal healthcare.

Why would you want to design your everyday hardy gadgets to dissolve and self-destruct? With the increasing pace of technological advances and outdated hardware, landfills are piling up with non-biodegradable and toxic electronic trash. The scientists and engineers for this aptly named project, Born to Die, acknowledge this and seek to combat these environmental concerns by working on electronic materials that dissolve safely in a controlled manner. So far they’ve already created electronic chips that can dissolve with just a drop of water, and predict that other environmental factors like temperature could also be programmed to break down obsolete technology when the time comes. The lifespan of a dissolving electronic could range from hours to years depending on how it was designed.

For those that are tightly clenching their handy waterproof phones, don’t worry – other self-destruction options being investigated include remote signal-activated degradation and electronics with precisely timed expiration dates.

Scientists have created two different system to power the dissolvable technology: one uses a wireless system that converts radio waves to DC power, and another uses external movement to generate energy, such as the systematic contractions of muscles in the body. This technology could greatly benefit the field of bioelectronic medicines, for example by monitoring bacteria levels to prevent infections. It could also alleviating some concerns and costs of the long-term effects and surgical removal of standard bioelectronic implants.

While designers and manufacturers often dread the thought that their creations are disposable, this new technology provides a great opportunity to realistically and conscientiously consider what humanity and the earth can handle, and what is needed.

Keara Wright

Aspiring creative author and astrophysicist, with degrees in Physics, Mathematics, and Psychology.

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