Self-destructing electronics dissolve when job is done

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With a few squirts of water, an electronic chip simply dissolves.

But why would anyone want their valuable electronics to disappear?

It's a unique way of dealing with discarded bits of tech that might otherwise clog up landfills.

"You don't need your cell phone to last for 25 or 50 years," explained John Rogers, a professor and materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Nobody wants to keep it that long anyway."

Rogers is leading the project looking at how to build electronics that vanish in water.

"That is one example of a broader class of electronics technology that we're referring to as transient, in the sense that it physically disappears over time in a very precisely and engineered way that, in some instances, can be actively triggered," Rogers said.

The goal is to design technology that would let outdated equipment self-destruct once it's reached the end of its usefulness.

The researchers call the program "Born to Die."

"We're talking about electronics that are very specifically engineered to have excellent properties, time independent, until the programmed moment at which you don't need the device anymore and then it just melts away," Rogers explained. "That's the trick."

Developers are also studying the potential of transient devices for use in medical care and the military.

The vanishing tech healthier for people and the planet, with a vast reduction in toxic electronic trash.