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Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00 Written by 

electronic wasteElectronic Waste Part IV(ish)

As we continue with our e-waste series of blogs we can begin to further explore the role of product and electronic design in the role of e-waste reduction and the potential positive effects this may have around the globe. Our previous blog post featured the somewhat futuristic idea of meteoroid mining in the quest to refine and expand our global (and interstellar) resource network in order to continue production whilst reducing the strain on the planet’s remaining natural resources.

Innovative product and electronic design will continue to shape the e-waste landscape. Product of ‘standardised’ consumer electronics is unlikely to stop, so the onus must shift to manufacturers, product designers and electronics engineers to pioneer eco-friendly materials, be that through their decomposition, their initial resource cost or their overriding benefit to the global population. Each facet of the chain will eventually fall under further scrutiny to ascertain where there are weak links in the e-waste battle.

Transient electronics (or biodegradable electronics) are electronic devices, boards or circuitry with a pre-ordained, limited lifetime. The idea of organic electronics has long been established and now, with numerous electronic polymer advances, electronics and bio-tech engineers can manufacture devices that biodegrade harmlessly when the product lifecycle is through.

The usage of transient electronics could have a global impact. Moving a rare and currently elusive manufacturing format forwards at a time where global industries in computing, technology and electronics production are evaluating their role in waste production and resource depletion will be ground-breaking.

Investigations into transient electronic has produced some interesting cross industry benefits with research into degradable polymer composite materials beginning to gather speed throughout the medical industry. Medical researchers have already tested transient resistors and capacitors, with transient LEDs and transistors next up. Can you imagine a situation where your bespoke medical device simply melts away following surgery? Or where meteorological devices can measure massive storm impacts in remote locations before melting away?

This video is worth a little watch: – Iowa State is currently pioneering and championing development in transient electronics designed to ‘completely melt away when triggered'. The transition of waste generation and waste management into core manufacturing and production processes will – dare I say, quite literally save certain aspects of the globe; the sheer number of individuals working throughout illegal waste sites could be cut, local ecosystems potentially restored and global resource depletion (and the ecological damage this causes – it’s all a big eco-circle!) would hopefully begin to subside.

It will not end e-waste. Transient electronics have not received enough research or funding as of yet. But pursuing a truly innovative manufacturing field that has numerous practical cross-industry applications would begin to position the entire global community as the master of its destiny, again.

Image courtesy of: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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