Warning: This electronic will self-destruct

Forget about electronics becoming obsolete the minute you bring them home; now, researchers want to make them vanish altogether. Disintegrating devices could erase sensitive information or deactivate bombs after a set period of time. They could also compose medical implants that don’t require a second surgery to remove. The new devices involve circuits sitting on a base layer of a particular polymer that dissolves in moisture and releases organic acids. These acids then degrade the circuitry on top, which can be made from a wide range of materials that wouldn’t normally dissolve. Altering the recipe for the polymer controls how quickly it breaks down. In a series of tests, the researchers printed several tiny electrical components, including transistors, light detectors, and antennas, on the polymer and watched as they decayed over a span of hours to days thanks to humidity in the air. The researchers also completely dissolved a simple but full electrical circuit a few millimeters across, they report today in Science Advances. Secret messages may eventually self-destruct right on cue, no cinematic explosions necessary.