Water-Soluble Electronics: Biomedical applications

Recent studies have investigated the prospect of producing electronics that can break down in a predetermined way leaving behind harmless bi-products. Common circuit components can be produced from materials that are water-soluble and can therefore be used to create implantable electronic devices that can dissolve when they are no longer needed. For example, a silicon structure may erode in water at a rate of 1nm per day but if the thickness of the structure was only a few nanometers to begin with, rather than the tens of micrometers or more that is typical of electronic implants, then the slow dissolution rate can be exploited to make a device that will dissolve at a predetermined time. Different materials with thickness variations can even be used that dissolve at different rates so select components of a circuit can be programmed to decompose at predetermined times. This could change the function of the electronic circuit enabling a single implanted device to serve the functions of multiple devices at pre-selected times, this can not only be utilised in biomedical applications but also degradable environmental monitors/sensors, disposable “green” electronics and hardware secure systems.

Recently, the dissolvable electronics were tested in vivo. An intracranial pressure and temperature sensor was created to monitor traumatic brain injury patients and implanted into living rats’ brains. Tests show that for roughly one week, the devices’ performance matched that of a commercial device and long-term histology studies show no adverse biological effects upon complete bioresorption.

References

Hwang, S., Kang, S., Brenckle, M., Omenetto, F., Rogers, J. (2014) Materials for programmed, functional transformation in transient electronic systems, Advanced Materials, doi:10.1002/adma.201403051

Jacoby, M (2014) Electronics that dissolve in the body, Availble at: http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/11/Electronics-Dissolve-Body.html

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