Electronic tag dissolves in water


The tag begins to dissolve as soon as it comes into contact with water © John Rogers

A water soluble radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag that can melt away in a matter of minutes has been developed in John Rogers’ lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US. Rogers presented the work at the 247th ACS National Meeting & Exposition in Dallas, US.

RFID tags are widely used for tracking consumer products, livestock and people – billions are produced each year. Most end up in landfill after a short period of time, but Rogers’ team have developed a prototype that could be easily recycled or reabsorbed into the environment once discarded. The work is part of a broader project to develop ‘transient’ electronics. In the past, the group have made dissolvable medical implants that don’t require surgery to retrieve, and they are currently working on a biodegradable battery.

The prototype RFID contains extremely thin – around 20nm thick – layers of silicon and zinc that make up the antenna and circuitry. These are transfer printed onto a soluble cellulose sheet. The whole device starts to crumple and melt away immediately when sprayed or immersed in water, and within a few minutes it completely disappears.

Rogers is optimistic the technology could be adopted by manufacturers, as it uses materials already used to make electronics. The next step, he says, is to develop a way to control the dissolving, so that the tag melts away after a desired period of time, or in response to a trigger.


Related Content

Tuning into a radio solution to money forgers

3 April 2012 News Archive

news image

Banknotes with an organic conducting polymer radiofrequency identification tag provide an extra level of security against cou...

Remote powered lab on a chip

16 February 2011 News Archive

news image

A wireless device to manipulate nanoparticles that's as simple to use as a microscope slide

Most Read

Bubble wrap could send lab costs packing

23 July 2014 Research

news image

Potential bubbles up across wide range of uses as storage and test vessels, especially for poor countries

Takeover battle pushes Allergan to cut R&D jobs

28 July 2014 Business

news image

Besieged by serially acquisitive Valeant, the Botox maker will lay off 1500 staff to propel earnings growth

Most Commented

Bubble wrap could send lab costs packing

23 July 2014 Research

news image

Potential bubbles up across wide range of uses as storage and test vessels, especially for poor countries

Relativity behind mercury's liquidity

21 June 2013 Research

news image

First evidence that relativistic effects are indeed responsible for mercury's low melting point