Setting the time factor for the electronics was a bit more complex. "The key word is control -- to make it disappear in a controlled way," Huang said. An electronic material that can dissolve in the body itself has very little control over how long it lasts. However, by putting an encapsulation layer made of magnesium oxide around the device, researchers could control the dissolution time "very precisely... between a few hours or as long as six months."
To create a device that can last a longer period of time, researchers design it with a thicker encapsulation layer. For a shorter dissolution period, the device will have either no layer or a very thin one. "We can control the magnesium oxide thickness," Huang said. However, even this is a delicate science, as "electronics have their own performance goals, which means you can't make this layer too thick" to impede on those, he added.
So far, researchers have tested one application of the transient electronic device, creating a device with a microheater that can be inserted into a wound to kill bacteria and aid with healing.
Aside from medical applications and the potential for consumer devices, these types of transient electronics can also benefit other scientific endeavors. "It can be used for environmental health monitoring, such as in an oil spill," allowing researchers to put a device inside seawater that can record conditions and then dissolve, leaving behind no impact on the environment, Huang said.
Huang, Omenetto, and their colleagues expect to continue their work for the next few years. Once there is approval from the Federal Drug Administration for use of the devices in medical applications, practitioners will have the go-ahead to use them on patients. However, this type of approval is likely many years down the line, according to Huang.
I think the idea is that the electronics are made of organic materials that can be processed quite easily because the body is used to them. Shrapnel, obviously, is quite a foreign object and would be intrusive to the body. The electronics are designed, in my understanding, to not be invasive and as natural as possible.
How does the body process metal out of itself? My brother has some small metallic shrapnel that still bothers him. It refuses to move. I assume dissolvable electronics will not leave deposits throughout the body, but it will be decades before people will believe otherwise.
Good analogy, Cabe! Yes, I do think that indeed is the point. Get it in, make it work, and then get it out before it can do anything adverse. We shall see if they manage to accomplish this in the future, I guess!
That's also a good point, but I think the researchers tried to design the electronics to be safe for humans. Perhaps that will be something they need to consider as they develop these electronics further and begin to test them on human subjects. Thanks for your comment.
As all the circuits are made up of magnesium and silicon and wrapped in magnesium dioxide then such electronic pills definitely going to increase the amount of magnesium and sillicon over the optimum value for a normal person inside the user and that may have biological side effects. So thats may be the problem, i think.
That's a good point. What if the body didn't respond as doctors expect to the treatment and needs more than the treatment is timed for? I am sure as researchers continue their work they will consider different scenarios and try to come up with methods that best suit them.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.