Planned obsolescence has caused an enormous amount of damage to our environment around the world. From plastics floating “islands” in our seas, to mountains of discarded computers and cell phones. E-waste has become a huge 21st-century issue and it will only continue if we do not do something to stop it.
Researchers at the University of Illinois in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University have created new dissolvable eco-friendly “Transient Technologies.” Soon, your old old cell phones, computers, digital cameras and other technologies could be dissolve and absorbed back into the environment simply by adding water.
John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Professor of Engineering at the U. of I., who led the multidisciplinary research team. calls this ‘Transients Technology.’ “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”
Environmentalists and futurists will only be satisfied if these transient technologies are completely biocompatible and capable of absolute absorption back into the environment or in body fluids. Rogers’ group has been able to develop small yet high performance electronic systems on ultra thin sheets of silicone that completely dissolve in several days once submerged in biofluids. Transient Technologies utilizes soluble conductors and dielectrics using a magnesium and magnesium oxide substrate. The substrate can provide a wide range of electronic components wireless transmission systems and sensors.
The team has experimented with transistors, diodes photodetectors, solar cells and even a simple digital camera. These components can take minutes, days, weeks, or even years to dissolve and are encapsulated in silk which determines its rate of dissolution.
If these technologies turn out to be completely safe and biocompatible this could change the way we interact with technology. The guilt of buying a new phone every year will disappear and yet at the same time corporations may tighten the grip of their already absurd planned obsolescence mantra. This could cause a rise in production and an increase in the cost of owning and maintaining transient technologies. Could we see the rise of a new iPhone every month? Could 3-D printers start using transient technologies substrate as a printing material? Corporations and environmentalists will need to monitor the progress for transient technologies to ensure they are utilized in the most effective and productive way. At Serious Wonder we see transient technologies as a way of cleaning our environment and leaving a smaller footprint.
What do you think? Are transient technologies a good idea?
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Image Source: news.illinois.edu