New Implantable Electronics ‘Melt In The Body’

By Amir Khan on September 28, 2012 12:22 PM EDT

A new breed of implantable electronics may make certain medical processes easier, according to a new study, published in the journal Science. The ultra-thin electronics can do their job and then simply "melt-away," researchers said.

The devices are made up of silicon and magnesium oxide placed in a protective layer of silk, and are already used to heat wounds to keep them free from infections.

Silicon dissolves readily in water, but typically could take years. Instead, the researchers use a super-thin sheet called a nanomembrane, which can dissolve in mere days. Researchers use silk to control the speed of the melting -- by altering its structure, they can change its melting speed.

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"Transient electronics offer robust performance comparable to current devices but they will fully resorb into their environment at a prescribed time, ranging from minutes to years," Fiorenzo Omenetto, from Tufts school of engineering, told BBC News.

One of the device's most practical uses would be to treat infections after surgery.

"Infection is a leading cause of readmission, a device could be put in to the body at the site of surgery just before it is closed up," John Rogers, a mechanical science and engineering professor at the University of Illinois, told BBC News. "But you would only need it for the most critical period around two weeks after surgery."

Ultimately, researchers say this technology can have uses we aren't seeing yet.

"It's a new concept, so there are lots of opportunities, many of which we probably have not even identified yet," Rogers said.

One such use could be to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

"Imagine the environmental benefits if cell phones, for example, could just dissolve instead of languishing in landfills for years," Omenetto said.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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