Biodegradable electronics have opened up new possibilities in the medical field by allowing devices such as drug delivery systems, pacemakers, and neural implants to safely degrade in the body. However, the challenge lies in controlling the dissolve rate of these devices to ensure that they remain functional for the required period of time.

Researchers have made significant advancements in controlling the dissolve rate of biodegradable electronics by experimenting with dissolvable elements such as inorganic fillers and polymers that encapsulate the device. This breakthrough has been led by Huanyu “Larry” Cheng, an expert in Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State.

Ankan Dutta, a doctoral student involved in the research, explained that encapsulating biodegradable devices using zinc oxide or silicon dioxide-based fillers can slow down the degradation process, allowing the devices to function for longer periods. Through modeling software, Dutta was able to determine the impact of different materials and designs on the degradation onset of electronic implants in the body.

Dutta’s research also highlighted the importance of the aspect ratio in predicting the degradation onset of the device. By coating the device in silicon dioxide flakes and controlling the aspect ratio, researchers were able to fine-tune the rate at which the implant degrades inside the body. This strategy has been referred to as ‘on demand transient electronics,’ where the degradation rate can be passively controlled based on the materials used.

Collaborating with Korea University, the researchers were able to fabricate a prototype of a biodegradable implant using the insights gained from Dutta’s simulations. The development of a high-efficiency biodegradable encapsulation approach has significantly increased the functional lifetime of electronic devices, making them more practical for large-scale production without additional treatments.

In contrast to active degradation methods that use third-party systems to trigger the breakdown of devices, the passive degradation approach has proven to be more cost-effective and feasible in clinical settings. This method enables devices to degrade on their own without the need for external interventions, making them more suitable for patient care in the future.

The ability to control the dissolve rate of biodegradable electronics represents a major breakthrough in the field of medical devices. With ongoing research and collaborations, researchers are paving the way for the development of more efficient and long-lasting biodegradable implants that can benefit patients in the healthcare industry.


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