Of all the stuff that people throw away, old electronics are some of the hardest trash to get rid of. They contain toxins and tons of tiny parts, making them expensive to recycle. But a group of scientists has a different vision for disposing of your old phone or computer — they’re working on making electronics that basically self-destruct when they’ve reached the end of their life cycle. Their first invention: a chip that dissolves in water.
The problem with building dissolving technology, of course, is making sure it doesn’t dissolve while you’re still using it. John Rogers, the lead on the project, told the AP:
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 dissolves away.
The chip, for instance, is printed on thin layers of silk. Add water to it, and it crumples and disappears. The team calls these “born to die” electronics. It’s a little bit morbid, but then, everyone and everything dies, doesn’t it? This just means that the smartphone you buy when you’re 20 won’t need to outlive you by hundreds of years. Just be extra careful not to drop the dissolving one in the toilet.