A somewhat common medical procedure is to have one's wisdom teeth removed, as our jaws are often too small to hold them. I remember when mine were removed that the stiches were made of material that would dissolve overtime, which meant I did not need to go back in to have them removed. Thanks to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and Tufts University, there are now transient electronics that will also dissolve away, once their job is done.
Referred to as transient electronics, these devices are made of ultrathin sheets of silicon and magnesium based conductors and insulators which can all dissolve in even small amounts of water. To keep them from dissolving immediately upon touching water or a biofluid, the researchers encapsulate the device in silk, and the thickness of the silk determines how quickly the entire package dissolves. For medical implants they could be designed to last a week or two, but for compostable consumer electronics, years of life would be required.
As typical electronics are designed to last for years, all of the potential uses for transient technologies likely have not occurred to the researchers yet. Already though they have tested a biomedical implant in a rat and created a 64 pixel digital camera using this technology, so there are differently possibilities for it. Of course, if we do see this used to make consumer-grade electronics, then you would have to be even more careful about getting your phone wet.
(Image from the Tufts University news release.)