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Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Researchers Prep Green Electronic Circuits

22 October 2014

There is a new trend in electronic circuit fabrication: electronic circuits built using certain materials that dissolve in water without leaving behind any harmful substances. Once used, the chip can be disposed of safely.

This technology is being developed by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Headed by professor John A. Rogers, the team at the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering has developed several “building blocks” to be used in the manufacture of integrated circuits, as well as sensors and actuators geared toward clinical medicine. The devices developed so far range from “green” consumer electronics to “electroceutical” or bioelectronics medicine.

“Our most recent combined developments in devices that address real challenges in clinical medicine and in advanced, high-volume manufacturing strategies suggest a promising future for this new class of technology," said Rogers. He will present these and other results at the American Vacuum Society (AVS) 61st International Symposium & Exhibition, being held November 9-14, 2014 in Baltimore, Md.

A new generation of “green” or transient devices. © J.Rogers/UIUC

Important potential applications for these chips are in the field of implantable medical devices. Examples include a temporary brain monitor used to assist in rehabilitation from brain injuries, and electrical bone growth stimulators. The implants will remain in the body until their functions are fulfilled; they will then be dissolved by the body.

Another application is in reducing e-waste, reducing the number of computer chips, boards and other gadgets that end up in landfills and stay for years. E-waste is becoming a very serious problem, considering that nowadays there are more mobile devices than humans on the planet. These “green” dissolvable devices can vastly reduce the environmental footprint of many classes of electronic peoducts.

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