Biodegradable circuits

Aditya Rengaswamy, Weird Science

As an individual who has befriended many avid gamers, I’ve always found the virtual worlds that can be explored fascinating. I don’t partake in too much gaming, but I certainly understand what captivates people in this medium. It allows people to take on the persona of a hero and face his or her challenges. It lets people dream and create realities that they seek, or just waste time randomly shooting birds at pigs.

One aspect of video games that I’ve always been curious about is the hardware itself. What do people do once the console hardware rusts? Are old PS2s just thrown away, or perhaps recycled? As I explored the waste that circuits and computers produce, I found some weird things under development.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as researchers at Tufts University have created circuits that dissolve in water. This fascinating component is made from silk and magnesium. A special coating is sprayed onto the material that allows it to last anywhere from a few hours to many years. Its implications in the medical field are astounding.

This could be used to make temporary sensors that need to enter the human body. Rather than worrying about an extraction process, biomedical engineers can design the circuits to harmlessly self-destruct in a set period of time. It can even be used with bacteria and viruses, ushering in new ways to fight disease.

Other applications include mini cameras and solar cells. The solar cells could be used as a temporary energy source in locations where other forms of energy are being developed. For example, if a city is constructing a geothermal plant – an energy source much more efficient than solar – one could use these special solar circuits during construction. Once construction is complete, the solar cells can be destroyed completely to save space for other things.

I think I may be interested in seeing developments of gaming systems that have options of being biodegradable after 10 or 15 years. After that period of time I’m usually moving on to the next system anyway. Regardless of what you believe about the “green” movement or the environment and the implication of human actions, it is never a bad idea to conserve resources and the space around us. Robert Redford once said, “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise, what is there to defend?” If we run out of things to use, or innovative ways to use what we have, it will be tough to live as a species on this earth. That truth is what drives me to innovate and create value out of everything, big or small.