28 Sep 2012:
Biodegradable Electronics Could
Lessen Environmental Impact of Devices
A team of U.S. scientists says it has developed a class of biodegradable electronics technology that could be utilized for a wide range of products — from consumer devices to medical implants — and that
ultimately would dissolve completely
University of Illinois and Tufts University
An integrated circuit dissolves in water.
, leaving no environmental impacts. Drawing on techniques that enable the production of systems using ultrathin sheets of silicon that dissolve in liquids, the so-called “transient electronics” technology has been used experimentally to make transistors, diodes, temperature sensors, and solar cells that degrade completely in even tiny amounts of water, the researchers say. The devices are encapsulated in silk, enabling manufacturers to alter the rate of dissolution based on the structure of the silk used. According to John Rogers, a professor at the University of Illinois and leader of the research team, the technology could be used for a myriad of electronic devices that end up in landfills; for environmental monitoring equipment, such as sensors used in oil spills; and for medical implants needed for short-term diagnostic or therapeutic functions.