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Dissolvable Electronics

In Lewis carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes across the famous cat from Cheshire which discusses philosophy with Alice. After the talk the cat grins and disappears. The cat is gone but the grin stays. Electronic devices like Integrated circuits and CMOS have become an important part of life but what do we do once we are done with them? Throw them away? But this causes e-waste piles and it is estimated that these kinds of e-waste alone account up to 70% of toxic wastes currently found in landfills and a good percentage in the sea too.

Electronic devices like pacemakers and sensors are implanted inside our bodies for various vital reasons. The trouble with them is that once they are past their use we remove them by surgery and simply throw them out. How nice would it be if these devices were like Alice’s Cheshire cat?? Now it seems there could be devices that do their work and dissolve in our body and comes out through the body as liquid.

Dr. John Rogers of University of Illinois and his group teamed up with Dr.Fiorenzo Omenetto of Tufts University and have devised an implantable electronic thermal therapy device which can last inside a rat’s body for a few weeks before dissolving away.

To be water soluble, every component of the device must be made of molecules and materials which are water soluble, not the conventional aluminium, rare-earth metal compounds or plastics. To be water soluble magnesium is used as the electrical conductor, MgO and silicon dioxide as dielectrics, specially fabricated nano-membrane silicon semiconductor and so forth in order to build the electro thermal device. The entire device along with transistors, resistors, IC’s, capacitor’s etc. dissolves when kept in deionized water. The device is packed in a sheet of silk, which is specially made so as to stay intact for a set of period of time, after which it dissolves in the body of water, exposing the electronic devices which too dissolves away.

The prototype these scientists have created (for transient thermal therapy) was implanted inside rats through surgery. Weeks later, they found no traces of infection after surgery and the prototype disappeared leaving no trace in the rat’s body.

Such biodegradable electronic devices can have many uses; this concept could also be extended to portable devices like mobile phones which, after use, may also be dissolved in water.

Source: http://rogers.matse.illinois.edu/


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