Daily Roundup: Dissolving Circuits

Most ideas of bio-electrical fusion come in the form of cybernetics or nano robotics, devices that either supplant our limbs and organs or tiny monitoring creatures that patrol our biological pathways. Although both have been researched, the recent invention and demonstration of soluble electronic circuits by researchers from Tufts University, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois might hold more immediate and efficient promise of a bioelectric future.

As this Smithsonian article explains, silicon naturally does dissolve in water, but there’s simply too much of it in traditional circuitry which is dense with the material. Instead of taking years of dissolve, however, this silk-coated, transparent film of circuitry that the researchers have come up with dissolves upon contact with water and can be tuned to melt away with different “shelf lives” as it were.

One of the more truly astonishing things the researchers have created includes a 64 pixel camera. We can imagine it would be incredibly useful trundling down blood vessels or the digestive tract and providing real-time diagnostics of a patient’s well-being.

I’m most interested now in how these circuits became a) ultra thin and clear (and if the latter has any significant advantage), and b) how the circuits were printed. The article mentions soluble conductors like magnesium and magnesium oxide, but the article would’ve been more complete with a better explanation of the process if it was different from the traditional method of manufacturing.

Still, it would be fascinating to see the applications of such material in the future. Imagine them being sold as simple consumer monitoring and fitness products, which can keep track of heart rate and/or hormone levels to give us feedback on how we’re treating our bodies.

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