What's the Latest Development?

A team of medical researchers have created the first fully biodegradable electronic implants, allowing doctors to install medical sensors or drug delivery devices that dissolve into the body when they are no longer needed. "The transient circuits...can be programmed to disappear after a set amount of time based on the durability of their silk-protein coating." The electronic circuits are made of magnesium electrodes and thin sheets of silicon which are then built on a support substrate of protein purified from silkworm silk.

What's the Big Idea?

The biodegradable devices were successfully used to heat a wound area to prevent bacterial infection and were then absorbed into the body once the wound healed. The technology could be useful from treating surgical infections, as demonstrated, to drug delivery or disease diagnostics. But the potential extends beyond the body, says John Rogers, a physical chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "Environmental monitors or even consumer electronics might be interesting to build in this fashion, because it would help to eliminate a lot of waste streams with discarded electronics."

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