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Mission Possible: This Device Will Self-Destruct When Heated


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The remains of an electronic device that self-destructed.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed electronic devices that can be remotely self-destructed on demand.

Credit: Scott White

University of Illinois researchers have developed heat-triggered self-destructing electronic devices and a radio-controlled trigger that could remotely activate self-destruction on demand, which could help greatly reduce electronic waste and boost sustainability in device manufacturing.

The devices use magnesium circuits printed on very thin, flexible materials. The researchers trap microscopic droplets of a weak acid in wax, and coat the devices with the wax. When the devices are heated, the wax melts, releasing the acid, which dissolves the device quickly and completely. The remote trigger works with an embedded radio-frequency receiver and an inductive heating coil in the device. The user sends a signal to heat up the coil, melting the wax, and dissolving the device.

"This work demonstrates the extent to which clever chemistries can qualitatively expand the breadth of mechanisms in transience, and therefore the range of potential applications," says University of Illinois researcher John A. Rogers.

In addition, the researchers can control how fast the device dissolves, ranging from about 20 seconds to a couple of minutes, by changing the thickness of the wax, the concentration of the acid, and the temperature. The devices can degrade in steps by encasing different parts in waxes with different melting temperatures, giving more precise control over which parts of a device operate at which times.

From University of Illinois News Bureau
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Abstracts Copyright © 2015 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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