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Disintegrating, dissolving or vanishing circuits are part of the emerging technology called transient electronics. The new technology allows remote disintegration of electronics parts, according to the researchers at Cornell University and the Honeywell Aerospace Company.

Transient electronics are circuits or a part of circuits that can be vaporized via specific triggers but do not leave any byproducts in the environment. There are many ways to trigger vaporization of the circuits, however, each type of trigger has its natural downside. For instance, a circuit that can be dissolved in water requires moisture, while circuits that can be disintegrated in heat need a specific temperature to achieve that.

In order to eliminate the downsides, the researchers created a transient architecture using a silicon-dioxide microchip connected to a polycarbonate shell. The microscopic cavities in the shell contain rubidium and sodium biflouride that can dissolve the circuit. Thermal reaction of these chemicals can be triggered using radio waves.

“The encapsulated rubidium then oxidizes vigorously, releasing heat to vaporize the polycarbonate shell and decompose the sodium bifluoride. The latter controllably releases hydrofluoric acid to etch away the electronics,” said Dr. Ved Gund, the lead researcher of the study and a graduate student in the Cornell SonicMEMS Lab.

Because the circuits do not leave byproducts, transient electronics can be used in the agricultural industry to monitor crops, collect essential data, and then vaporize automatically after transmitting the information. The circuits can be also be scaled to accommodate specific industries and purposes.

“Our team has also demonstrated the use of the technology as a scalable micro-power momentum and electricity source, which can deliver high peak powers for robotic actuation,” said Amit Lal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The researchers caution the use of these circuits for storing critical data because any information will also be vaporized if placed in the wrong hands.