Electronics That Vanish in the Body By Liz Ahlberg/University of Illinois and Daniel Stolte/UANews, September 28, 2012
UA physician and biomaterial expert Dr. Marvin J. Slepian is part of a team that has developed biodegradable electronics that could revolutionize medicine, environmental monitoring and consumer electronics. Biodegradable electronics could help reduce waste streams from obsolete electronic devices.
Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also biocompatible and capable of dissolving completely in water – or in bodily fluids. Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University, the University of Arizona and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices.
“We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics,” said John A. Rogers, University of Illinois engineering professor, who led the multidisciplinary research team. “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”
Three application areas appear particularly promising. First are medical implants that perform important diagnostic or therapeutic functions for a useful amount of time and then simply dissolve and resorb in the body. Second are environmental monitors, such as wireless sensors that are dispersed after a chemical spill, that degrade over time to eliminate any ecological impact. Third are consumer electronic systems or sub-components that are compostable, to reduce electronic waste streams generated by devices that are frequently upgraded, such as cell phones or other portable devices.
Read more at UANews here.