The Stack Archive

Dissolvable technology that could revolutionise medical implants and e-waste

Fri 10 Oct 2014

At the AVS 61st International Symposium & Exhibition in November Professor John A. Rogers will present the results of his research department at the Seitz Materials Research Laboratory demonstrating the potential of circuit and sensor technology that can dissolve in the body or in water. The possible applications are significant in the fields of medical implants and the disposal of end-of-life computer technology.

Rogers said “Our most recent combined developments in devices that address real challenges in clinical medicine and in advanced, high volume manufacturing strategies suggest a promising future for this new class of technology.”

On the medical side, the research paves the way for complex monitoring systems which are biologically compatible and designed to harmlessly degrade and be expelled from the body after a pre-designed period through the process of resorption, without the trauma of surgical extraction.

In terms of technology disposal, biodegradable circuitry offers the opportunity to make a significant impact on the environmental issue of obsolete hardware. As the study Biodegradable Materials for Multilayer Transient Printed Circuit Boards notes, 82% of electronic waste is designed for robustness and survivability, and ends its life in landfills degrading very slowly and releasing chemicals such as mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and lead into the local environment and communicating water supplies.

Rogers and his colleagues are developing techniques of screen-printing transient conductive pastes on Na-CMC substrates, a technique which can produce circuits for wireless power harvesting and near field communications (NFC) circuits.

The research establishes techniques for transient printed circuit boards that can equal the performance of conventionally produced equivalents, but which will dissolve in water.

The Rogers Research Group, operating out of the University of Illinois, is conducting a wide range of research that crosses into the field of cybernetics, including ‘Unusual Format Electronics’, which researches functional systems to integrate sensor technology with the human body, ‘Nanomanufacturing’, which investigates the construction potential of soft lithographic and electrohydrodynamic nanofluidic methods, and ‘Photovoltaics and Solid State Lighting’, which investigates the cybernetic possibilities of inorganic LEDs in unconventional physical environments.


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