R&Q's Blog

Medical device industry news and trends - and the resources to understand and act on them.


Biodegradable Circuits

When I first heard the words “biodegradable” and “electronic devices” together, especially in the context of nanotechnology and the medical field, the idea smacked ever so slightly of science fiction. You know, the sort of advancement that belongs in an era of teleportation and colonies on other planets. Apparently, the science is real and also really cool. A team of researchers from the University of Illinois, Tufts University, and Northwestern University have developed a family of biodegradable electronics that dissolve completely in water and other similar fluids. Silicon, magnesium, and magnesium oxide are the standard ingredients for the circuitry, and an engineered silk barrier protects the materials from water so they don’t begin breaking down right away. The circuits are ultrathin, only a few nanometers thick, and the engineers can control how quickly the device breaks down by changing the thickness of the materials. They can also control the length of time before the device begins to biodegrade by modifying the structure of the protective silk layer. (For more on cool new uses for silk in nanotechnology, check out Rebecca’s earlier article.)

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