Researchers create world’s first dissolvable microchip

10 Oct 2014

The researchers' prototype model of their dissolvable chip. Image via J.Rogers/UIUC

A team of researchers has developed a series of silicon chips and sensors that can be dissolved in water after they reach the end of their lives, which could prove crucial to e-waste management.

As the amount of gadgets, devices, computers and other hardware enter the market on a daily basis, the amount of e-waste generated around the world has become a serious issue.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Illinois have found that a series of circuits, sensors and other tech components can be entirely dissolved just by placing it in water.

Aside from just e-waste, the researchers envision multiple uses for dissolvable tech, particularly in the field of medicine where potentially a device could be placed into a patient’s body which could be broken down and absorbed by the body to reduce infection around the area of a surgeon’s incision.

 A dissolvable electrical stimulator could even be attached to a person’s bone to stimulate the growth of more bone and once it has performed its function, will safely dissolve leaving no trace of its existence.

A photo taken by the researchers showing the dissolving of their chip in progress. Image: J.Rodgers/UIUC

The team led by John Rodgers of the university’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory will now look to showcase their findings to their peers to see the feasibility of such a potentially beneficial project to not just the environment, but healthcare as well.

“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,” said Rogers of their dissolvable chip.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic