By: Zeinab Mohamed Chahine
The United States is one of the largest consumers of electronics in the world. With millions lining up every year for the latest iPhone, tablets and Black Friday television deals, it is not difficult to believe that the U.S. is currently the largest contributor of electronics waste in the world, contributing to approximately 30 million (32%) tons of e-waste . Most unused electronic devices are transported to underdeveloped countries where they form strenuous ecological and health implications on the country and its inhabitants. These discarded waste products pose great threat to nearby inhabitants through the exposure of toxic metals such as mercury and cadmium . Luckily, research has been implemented the advancement of an eco-friendly alternative to developmental technology.
Professor John Rogers, Materials Science Engineer and Chemist at the University of Illinois has developed a new form of dissolvable, green polymer applicable to a wide breadth of medical and electronic devices. Termed “transient electronics,” this polymer has the potential to be implemented into surgical procedures without the harsh and dangerous need for an invasive surgery . Scientists have reported their findings through its application in mice models.
Currently in its early stages of development, researchers have successfully manufactured ultra-thin filaments capable of remote transport into the human body for use in heart monitoring, x-rays and aid in bone tissue regeneration. The polymer is made of biodegradable components that are harmless to live tissues and are completely biodegradable. Made up of a thin silk protein film, it contains ultrathin silicon and magnesium oxide circuits that can be harmlessly absorbed . Some of these polymers have been modified to be remotely programmed to travel between tissues and release medication, stimulate targeted cells, and record chemical and electrical data that can be triggered to dissolve using specific wavelengths .
The potential for such technology is limitless, with current goals aimed at the development of eco-friendly biodegradable electronic devices that would be functional for three to five years, further programmed to be dissolved and decomposed into the earth. This technology would prove to be an amazing solution to the great electronic pollutants facing the U.S., Accra, Ghana and several other countries worldwide.