A Promising Attempt at Triggering Destruction to limit E-Waste Pollution

The electronic devices will soon have an option, rather than ending up in a landfill, they can alternatively self destruct.

The researchers at the University of Illinois, led by Aerospace Engineering Professor, Scott White, in collaboration with John Rogers, a Materials Science and Engineering Specialist at Illinois, have developed heat-triggered self-destructing electronic devices.

The development published in the journal Advanced Materials, aims to decrease the electronic waste and subsequently boost sustainability in device manufacturing.

Prof. White explained, “This was our first attempt to use an environmental stimulus to trigger destruction. We have demonstrated electronics that are there when you need them and gone when you don't need them anymore”. He added that this was an ambitious way of creating sustainability in the materials that are used in modern-day electronics.

Prof. White has described that the goal of the research is to provide consumers with an option to ‘bring back to the building blocks’ any device that is out of use or obsolete, so that it can be recycled or dissolved away, rather than amassing in the landfills.

The heat-triggered devices will have magnesium circuits coated with wax containing microscopic droplets of a weak acid. So, when these devices get heated, the wax meltx, releasing the acid to dissolve the device completely.

In order to remotely trigger the reaction, the researchers have installed a radio-frequency receiver and an inductive heating coil in the device. As and when the user sends a signal, the coil heats up, melting the wax and the device self destructs within 20 seconds to a couple of minutes, after heat is applied.

Further, the researchers asserted that the pace of degradation can be controlled by tuning the thickness of the wax, the concentration of the acid, and the temperature.

Undoubtedly, it is a reassuring step to combat the hazards of environmental pollution.