Security Bonus: Melting Circuits

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 @ 12:04 PM gHale

In what could be a quality security move, there is now an electronic circuit that can melt on demand, rendering itself useless.

The technology has a ton of potential uses, but a few that quickly come to mind is in mobile phones and credit cards.

“Just think,” said Reza Montazami, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, “if you lose your credit card, you could send out a signal that causes the card to self-destruct.”

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The materials are special polymers designed to quickly and completely melt away when activated.

One of the first tests was to create a blue light-emitting diode mounted on a clear polymer composite base with the electrical leads embedded inside.

Add a drop of water and the base and wiring begin to melt away.

Before long the light goes out and a second drop of water degrades what little is left.

The researchers have also developed and tested transient resistors and capacitors.

“You don’t expect your cell phone to dissolve someday, right?” Montazami said. “The resistors, capacitors and electronics, you don’t expect everything to dissolve in such a manner that there’s no trace of it.”

Montazami said this “transient materials’ could make it a reality.”

“A medical device, once its job is done, could harmlessly melt away inside a person’s body,” the researchers said. “Or, a military device could collect and send its data and then dissolve away, leaving no trace of an intelligence mission.”

The team has already built and tested a degradable antenna capable of data transmission, and presented some of its research results at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas.

“Investigation of electronic devices based on transient materials (transient electronics) is a new and rarely addressed technology with paramount potentials in both medical and military applications,” the researchers said in the paper on the subject.

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