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Novel components designed to dissolve in water

Posted: 14 Jan 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SINTEF  sensor  magnesium  drone 

A team of researchers at SINTEF, a research organisation based in Norway, has made progress in developing components that dissolve in water. Printed on a silicon wafer, the components contain extremely thin circuits, only a few nanometres thick, which are designed to transfer energy. They are made of a combination of magnesium, silicon, or silicon with a magnesium additive; are water-soluble; and disappear after a few hours.

Dissolvable components

Source: Werner Juvik, SINTEF

One of the obstacles to creating a final working product is the need for a coating that can protect the circuits. When external fluids reach the inside of the packaging, the circuits will begin to degrade. The job for which the circuit is designed must be complete before that step occurs. SINTEF researchers gave as an example a circuit package designed to be used in seawater and fitted with sensors for measuring oil spills. The film must be made so that it remains in place for the weeks during which the measurements are being taken.

SINTEF scientist Geir Uri Jensen

SINTEF scientist Geir Uri Jensen shows the components containing magnesium circuits designed to dissolve in water. Source: Werner Juvik/SINTEF

"It's important to make it clear that we're not manufacturing a final product, but a demo that can show that an electronic component can be made with properties that make it degradable," said Karsten Husby, a research scientist in SINTEF's information and communication technology (ICT) division. "Our project is now in its second year, but we'll need a partner active in the industry and more funding in the years ahead if we're to meet our objectives. There's no doubt that eco-friendly electronics is a field which will come into its own, also here in Norway. And we've made it our mission to reach our goals."

Researchers in the US have been working on biocompatible electronic devices that can be implanted in the body for various uses, pain management, for example, or to combat infection, and then dissolve over time.

"We make no secret of the fact that we are putting our faith in the research results coming out of the USA," added Husby. "The Americans have made amazing contributions both in relation to medical applications, and towards resolving the issue of waste. We are far from this, but we want to try to find alternative approaches to the same problem."

Along similar lines, other researchers have created what they call the world's first "biological" drone built with biodegradable material that, should the drone crash, will start breaking down upon impact, leaving no evidence of its existence. A team of 15 Stanford University, Brown University and Spelman College students developed the drone in collaboration with New York-based biomaterials company Ecovative Design for the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine competition) 2014 Giant Jamboree, held Oct 30 to Nov 3 in Boston.

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