What if your smartphone was engineered to biodegrade when you wanted an upgrade? Or what if its components could even dissolve when they came into contact with water?
That is what a team of investigators from 3 universities have been examining, and they have actually made it a possibility. The U.S. based researchers who developed the technology are from Northwestern University, Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The research study has been given the name “born to die” and essentially, that is what it is. A new way of manufacturing smartgear and other devices, called transient electronics, in which the internal components are structured to break down when the user is finished with them, or to completely dissipate in water. The team mainly looked at silicon constructed types of electronics with magnesium conductors, and successfully reproduced the effect with numerous types of equipment.
The researchers point out that consumers do not need their smartgear to last for decades, as they are upgrading to new devices and turning in or trashing the old ones long before their digital lifespan is over.
Though things that do not last are quite the opposite of what consumers are programmed to purchase and it doesn’t sound too good if you have a tendency to drop your gadgets near water, electronics made in this way do have a protective covering. They are coated with a magnesium oxide and silk overlay of varied thicknesses, depending on how long it is intended to be used.
In addition to consumer electronics, transient devices would also be key in the medical fields and other areas where monitoring equipment is employed. Necessary implanted devices could be programmed and tailored to be reabsorbed into the body after a specific time period. This would eliminate the need for invasive procedures to remove the apparatus.
The team proposed that in addition to the numerous capacities where this innovative technology would be beneficial, this process is also a more environmentally responsible way to produce merchandise. If temporary units were ever put into production it would eliminate tons of electronic waste from discarded gadgets.
The findings of the study were published in the September 28, 2012 issue of Science.
For more detailed information about the development of water soluble electronics see their presentation.
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