If you are a fan of science fiction literature, this new advance may not shock you, but the regular population might get quite a jolt once fiction becomes reality. Currently, researchers at Iowa State University are working on creating technology that performs a specific task – and once that task is complete, the device is programmed to self-destruct – quite literally!
We all remember the cartoons and quirky movies where the character was told that the message would self-destruct in a matter of seconds, but no one really took that seriously. Until Reza Montazami, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering decided to make that wish come true.
Montazami’s team has developed this new technology which uses “transient materials” or “transient electronics.” As the name implies, devices made of this polymer material can be programmed to quickly dissolve once a trigger has been activated.
The uses for something like this are astounding. For example, imagine medical devices that could be implanted and then later dissolved when they were no longer medically necessary. Instead of a risky and costly surgical removal, a doctor would simply need to activate a trigger and “poof!” the device is gone.
There are plenty of other potential uses for this technology as well, whether it’s modern warfare and spy games, or something as simple as collecting weather data. In a world where we often worry about old devices and other trash cluttering up landfills, we might soon live in a world where unneeded devices will simply vanish.
“You don’t expect your cell phone to dissolve someday, right?” said Montazami. “The resistors, capacitors and electronics, you don’t expect everything to dissolve in such a manner that there’s no trace of it.”
His recently published paper went on to state, “(The) Investigation of electronic devices based on transient materials (transient electronics) is a new and rarely addressed technology with paramount potentials in both medical and military applications.”
Montazami worked with Handan Acar and Simge Cinar, postdoctoral research associates in mechanical engineering; and Mahendra Thunga, a postdoctoral research associate in materials science and engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory as well as with Michael Kessler, formerly of Iowa State and now professor and director of Washington State University’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in Pullman.
This is extremely exciting news for engineering students who are looking for a way to make their mark on technology and the world at large. Instead of being relegated to dog-eared paperbacks, ideas that were once thought outlandish are coming true every day and offer the opportunity for students and long-standing engineers to make a true difference.
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