Without a trace: towards eco-friendly electronics that self-degrade and vanish

January 13, 2015 // By Amy Norcross, EDN
Researchers at Scandinavian research organization SINTEF have made progress in developing components that dissolve in water. They are made of a combination of magnesium, silicon, or silicon with a magnesium additive; are water-soluble; and disappear after a few hours.

Printed on a silicon wafer, the components contain extremely thin circuits — only a few nanometres thick — that are designed to transfer energy. 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.

In the picture above, 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,” says 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.”

next; bio-compatible...