Scientists have created a unique circuit board that will make sci-fi enthusiasts around the world very, very happy.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee have created simple circuit boards that will rapidly disintegrate if placed in water that is cooler than room temperature. So while these boards aren’t quite like the “This message will self destruct” technology seen in spy movies, they’re still pretty nifty.
These boards include conductive traces and adaptors that work perfectly fine above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but if placed in an area or water that is cold, they will immediately disappear.
The idea behind this interesting technology is that if the engineer neglects it, it will automatically destruct. The researchers were hoping to create a piece of technology that would remind the user to take care of it, or else it is ruined forever. Once it dissolves, it cannot be put back together.
The circuit board system is complex considering its size — it involves a system of silver nanowires that are connected via a polymer that is hydrophobic at room temperature or warmer. Hydrophobic molecules do not hold a charge, so they are nonpolar and do not dissolve. Once the board is placed in water, the polymer dissolves and the silver nanowires detach from each other, making the board completely nonexistent in a matter of minutes, Spectrum reports.
Dr. Leon Bellan, one of the researchers on the project, explains the technology to Digital Trends:
“What we have done is produce a composite system that behaves like a regular circuit board when immersed in warm water, but if the water cools below a threshold temperature, the entire system disintegrates, dissolves, and stops working. We have achieved this behavior by coupling two separate materials: networks of silver nanowires, and a polymer that exhibits the odd behavior of being insoluble in warm water, but soluble in cold water.”
One can compare this interesting technology to that of a normal printed circuit board, and how these boards change appearance. Regular PCBs have Temperature Marker material that is opaque initially, but once it reaches 413 degrees Fahrenheit, the material liquifies, becomes shiny, and cannot be reversed back to its original state.
This self-destructing circuit board takes that concept to a whole new level. The next step for the researchers is to now see if these circuit boards can sustain themselves when embedded in human and animal tissue, such as the arm or a steak.