This wearable electronic device melts to nothing if you pour vinegar on it — and that’s by design. With 50 million metric tons of electronic waste projected for 2018, scientists at Stanford University created a biodegradable wearable that wouldn’t sit in the junk drawer or junkyard for the rest of eternity, once the next generation of Fitbit came along.
The result is one of the lightest, thinnest electronic devices that’s ever been made. The big advance was a biodegradable semiconductor the scientists synthesized from a molecule found in tattoo ink. They also created a new, extra-thin film made out of plant fibers, using it as a base to embed the device’s electronics in. That includes electrodes, made out of aluminum and iron, which melt away completely along with the rest of the device after 30 days in a liquid even less acidic than vinegar. The how-to manual for this new wearable was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.