United States – University of Illinois researchers in the USA have found a way to make electronic devices ‘self-destruct’ when they are subjected to heat. The team has also developed a radio-controlled trigger that could remotely activate the process ‘on demand’. This advancement is said to support a more rounded approach to resource recovery.
‘We have demonstrated electronics that are there when you need them and gone when you don’t need them anymore,’ says aerospace engineering professor Scott R. White, who led the research recently published in the US journal ‘Advanced Materials’. Heat-triggered devices use magnesium circuits printed on very thin, flexible materials, he explains.
The researchers essentially trap microscopic droplets of a weak acid in a wax which is then used to coat the devices. When the devices are heated, the wax melts, the acid is released and the device dissolves quickly and completely.
‘We took our ideas in terms of materials regeneration and flipped it 180 degrees,’ White notes. ‘If you can’t keep using something, whether it’s obsolete or just doesn’t work anymore, we’d like to be able to bring it back to the building blocks of the material so you can recycle them when you’re done, or if you can’t recycle it, have it dissolve away and not sit around in landfills.’