Silicon electronics are known for their ability to remain unchanged physically. Even though this particular characteristic is important while using the technology for the purposes of integrated circuits, the opposite behavior may be equally useful. A new field, named "transient electronics", explores the ability of silicon devices to "vanish", which are unlike traditional electronics that built to last. An example of such a device is one that functions for a medically useful time frame when implanted into the body but is then dissolved by body fluids. This use is currently being investigated by scientists in the US. Ultra-thin electronics that dissolve inside the body have been devised, which “melt away” once their job is done, according to a paper published in Science.
The "fading away" technology must take two things into account – getting the electronics to dissolve at all and using a shell to control when that happens. Even though silicon dissolves in water, the size of components in conventional electronics means it would take an eternity. The researchers experimented with thin sheets of silicon, called a nanomembrane, which can dissolve in days or weeks. The speed of melting is controlled by silk collected from silkworms, dissolved and then allowed to reform. Altering the way the dissolved silk crystallises changes its final properties and how long the device will last.
The potential uses of this technology are still being tested in the laboratory. Currently, the most likely use is to heat a wound to keep it free from infection by bacteria. There are also speculations that the technology may be used to release drugs inside in a controlled manner the body or to build sensors for the brain and heart.
The technology may play a particularly important role in sustainable manufacturing of drugs, by allowing several drugs to be produced in a common and stable usable form. Learn more about manufacturing technologies being investigated in Asia by attending the Biologic Manufacturing World Asia and the Sustainable Manufacturing World Asia conference tracks at the BioPharma Asia Convention in Singapore, hosted by Terrapinn during 18-21 March, 2013.
Source: BBC News Health