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Once used, it dissolves

There is a clear trend towards embedding of electronics everywhere (toys are a clear example, over 80% of them have some sort of electronics inside), including in our body. Just yesterday I mentioned the possibility of embedding electronics in a patch that can be glued on our skin, and in the past I reported on smart pills embedding electronics for a variety of purposes (from monitoring to releasing specific substances in specific environment or at specific times).
Today it is about a research carried out at Iowa State University that has found a way to create what why call "transient electronics" a set of electronic components that once have been used dissolves in the ambient, including the human body.
They have managed to create a special polymer composite that can be given a trigger to dissolve. It can be used as a temporary monitor inside our body, as an ambient sensor that can be washed away by rain once its job is done and, of course, as a military device that once used simply disappears.
The composite is a mixture of a gelatine with sucrose and a polyvinyl alcohol. By varying the percentage of gelatine/sucrose one can delay the dissolution.
Within this substance one can include resistors and capacitors. As we know transistors are so tiny that it is not really a problem to include them and having them disappearing once the polymer substrate dissolves. The researchers are working to be able to include also LED that can dissolve as well.
In perspective the researchers point out that there might be several areas where a transient electronics. Imagine using this type of material for credit cards. If you are losing the card (or it gets stolen) you can send a signal so that at the first attempt to use it receives the signal to dissolve!
Another example might be a transmitter programmed to work for a certain time or within a certain temperature range. You place it in a food package and when you buy the package you check for the signal. If it is not there it means that the food may no longer be good!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.