A research study published online by the journal Advanced Functional Materials indicates that scientists are trying to build degradable materials and electronics that can safely melt when triggered, like if you lose your credit card, you could send out a signal that causes the card to self-destruct.

Credit Cards

Credit Cards

Iowa State University’s materials scientist, Reza Montazami, said that it’s a new way of looking at electronics and you don’t expect everything to dissolve in such a manner that there’s no trace of it.

But Montazami thinks it can happen and is developing the necessary materials. He calls the technology “transient materials” or “transient electronics.” The materials are special polymers designed to quickly and completely melt away when a trigger is activated.

It’s a fairly new field of study and Montazami said he’s making progress.

The research team he’s leading, for example, is developing degradable polymer composite materials that are suitable platforms for electronic components. The team has also built and tested a degradable antenna capable of data transmission.

The researchers wrote that investigation of electronic devices based on transient materials or electronics is a new and rarely addressed technology with paramount potentials in both medical and military applications.

To demonstrate that potential, Montazami played a video showing 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 developed and tested transient resistors and capacitors. They’re working on transient LED and transistor technology, said Montazami, who started the research as a way to connect his background in solid-state physics and materials science with applied work in mechanical engineering.

As the technology develops, Montazami sees more and more potential for the commercial application of transient materials.