DARPA-sponsored research projects are usually pretty crazy, and so is this one: a group of researchers have created electronic systems that can totally dissolve in liquid after they're no longer needed, even inside the human body.
The biodegradable electronics are made using silicon and magnesium encased inside a silk layer. The qualities of the silk determine how long the system lasts before degrading, and since silicon and magnesium are both found in our bodies (in tiny quantities), DARPA assures that the technology shouldn't be harmful, whether it dissolves inside or outside the human body.
Here's a video from DARPA, showing the dissolving electronics in action:
The research, carried out by scientists at Tufts University and the University of Illinois's Beckman Institute, could mean big things for medicine, but could even reach much farther than that.
In medicine, dissolving electronics could be inserted into a wound before closing it up, and could monitor healing or apply heat to the damaged area to speed the process. Then, after a few weeks, the system would simply break apart, which would mean no second surgery to remove it and no more healing needed.
Beyond medicine, uses are limited only by the imagination. Speaking to the BBC, John Rogers, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois said: "It's a new concept, so there are lots of opportunities, many of which we probably have not even identified yet."
Some of those opportunities? Well, dissolving electronics could mean a lot less e-waste, since your old phones, computers, toasters and what-have-you would biodegrade instead of sitting in a landfill. That, and instead of wearable electronics, why don't we just skip on over to embeddable bio-circuitry? Google Glass is fine to start, but I'm waiting for the disposable contact lens version.