Waste Not, Want Not Thanks to New Breed of Wearable

Researchers create thinnest, lightest device that could cut down on electronic waste.


Take one look at the mounting trash piles and plastic heaps and it’s clear why so many are bullish on biodegradable anything. Now you can add biodegradable electronics devices to the bounty of research being in done in this area thanks to a team at Stanford University working on a dissolvable wearable device.

The researchers have come up with a decomposing polymer in one of the thinnest, lightest electronics devices ever created and which magically melts away in about 30 days once placed in a vinegar or less acidic solution, according to an article on Futurism.com. The article says the researchers synthesized the biodegradable semiconductor using a molecule extracted from tattoo ink while fabricating a base by weaving plant fibers into the extra-thin film. From there, they simply embedded electronics inside the biodegradable structure, the article said.

Beyond the cool factor, the technology has significant ramifications for two big problems related to electronics devices: Privacy and electronic waste. The Futurism.com article reports that the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that humans will generate more than 50 million metric tons of electronic waste in 2018, and its developers believe this new dissolvable device technology has the potential to make a dent in the growing landfill. Moreover, dissolving no longer used smartphones and wearables minimizes the privacy issues raised when people discard old devices and don’t effectively erase their data, the article says. Finally, the technology lends itself to storing sensitive digital information that could be quickly and easily destroyed and kept private as well as for medical devices like biological sensors and implantables, the article said.

Maybe someday I’ll be reaching for the vinegar when it comes to upgrade my phone.

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