Where do electronics go when they die? Most devices are laid to eternal rest in landfills. But what if they just dissolved away, or broke down to their molecular components so that the material could be recycled?
University of Illinois researchers have developed heat-triggered self-destructing electronic devices, a step toward greatly reducing electronic waste and boosting sustainability in device manufacturing. They also developed a radio-controlled trigger that could remotely activate self-destruction on demand.
The researchers, led by aerospace engineering professor Scott R. White, published their work in the journal Advanced Materials.
"We have demonstrated electronics that are there when you need them and gone when you don't need them anymore," White said. "This is a way of creating sustainability in the materials that are used in modern-day electronics. This was our first attempt to use an environmental stimulus to trigger destruction."
White's group teamed up with John A. Rogers, a Swanlund chair in materials science and engineering and director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Laboratory at Illinois. Rogers' group pioneered transient devices that dissolve in water, with applications for biomedical implants. Together, the two multi-disciplinary research groups have tackled the problem of using other triggers to break down devices, including ultraviolet light, heat and mechanical stress. The goal is to find ways to disintegrate the devices so that manufacturers can recycle costly materials from used or obsolete devices or so that the devices could break down in a landfill.
The heat-triggered devices use magnesium circuits printed on very thin, flexible materials. The researchers trap microscopic droplets of a weak acid in wax, and coat the devices with the wax. When the devices are heated, the wax melts, releasing the acid. The acid dissolves the device quickly and completely.
To remotely trigger the reaction, researchers embedded a radio-frequency receiver and an inductive heating coil in the device. The user can send a signal to cause the coil to heat up, which melts the wax and dissolves the device.
Watch a video of the researchers demonstrating and explaining the devices at https:/
"This work demonstrates the extent to which clever chemistries can qualitatively expand the breadth of mechanisms in transience, and therefore the range of potential applications," Rogers said.
The researchers can control how fast the device degrades by tuning the thickness of the wax, the concentration of the acid, and the temperature. They can design a device to self-destruct within 20 seconds to a couple of minutes after heat is applied.
The devices also can degrade in steps by encasing different parts in waxes with different melting temperatures. This gives more precise control over which parts of a device are operative, creating possibilities for sophisticated devices that can sense something in the environment and respond to it.
White's group has long been concerned with device sustainability and has pioneered methods of self-healing to extend the life of materials.
"We took our ideas in terms of materials regeneration and flipped it 180 degrees," White said. "If you can't keep using something, whether it's obsolete or just doesn't work anymore, we'd like to be able to bring it back to the building blocks of the material so you can recycle them when you're done, or if you can't recycle it, have it dissolve away and not sit around in landfills."
White and Rogers are both affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and the National Science Foundation supported this work.
Editor's note: To reach Scott R. White, call (217) 333-1077; email: email@example.com.
The paper, "Thermally triggered degredation of transient electronic devices," is available online at http://onlinelibrary.
A downloadable image gallery is available at https:/
Liz Ahlberg | EurekAlert!
Silicon solar cell of ISFH yields 25% efficiency with passivating POLO contacts
08.12.2016 | Institut für Solarenergieforschung GmbH
Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer IFAM
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine