A new electronic device has been developed by scientists that can be stimulated to dissolve by exposing it to water molecules in the environment. This development may result in biodegradable disposable personal electronics as well as biomedical devices that disintegrate within the body, according to the researchers. As said by Cunjiang Yu, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, the United States, there are defense uses as well, including tools that can be programmed to disintegrate so as to protect sensitive data.

The domain, called as physically transient electronics, at present, needs to be dipped in biofluids or aqueous corrosive solutions. This work reveals an entirely new functioning method—the disbanding is activated by surrounding moisture, according to the researchers said. Yu said, “More prominently, the transient phase of time can be accurately controlled.”

It is possible to program a biomedical device using the method to dissolve when its job—for instance, delivering medication—is accomplished. Also, sensitive communications can be set up to actually disappear once the message was sent. Further, it can also program new cell phones to disintegrate when they are no more required, according to the researchers.

The researchers said, “We illustrate that polymeric substrates with advanced degradation kinetics and related transience chemistry provide a viable approach to create physically transient electronics. By manipulating of the environmental humidity and component of the polymer, the process of hydrolyzing polyanhydrides can be controlled and thereby, the dissolution kinetics of operational device can be managed.”

According to the research team, the time span may vary from days to weeks or more. In the study, operational electronic constituents were fabricated through additive methods onto a film composed of the polyanhydride polymer. The device stayed stable till the surrounding moisture activated a chemical breakdown that processed the inorganic electronic components and materials.

A range of compounds was tested by the team, including copper, aluminum, zinc oxide, magnesium oxide, & nickel indium-gallium and developed several electronic devices, comprising capacitors, resistors, transistors, antennas, photo sensors, diodes, to show the versatility of the model.

Yu said that the lifetime of the devices can be managed by differing the level of humidity or by altering the polymer composition.