Silk is simply wonderful. It has a sheen and texture like no other and, as we’ve noted in previous BeWeave It’s, scientists and doctors are finding new ways of using silk in medicine. Currently, they’re developing ways to use silk to help preserve vaccines during travel and times of high heat and to rebuild damaged heart tissue.
Now scientists have found yet another use for silk, this time in the form of tiny biodegradable electronic implants. These minuscule electronic circuits can be built to fight infections, take photographs, and for other medically beneficial actions.
What makes them so unique and special is that once their job is done, these little implants are designed to dissolve naturally.
Made from slivers of silicon thinner than a human hair, wrapped in silk protein, these transient electronics (as they are officially called) can be designed to degrade in a few minutes or a few years. How? Well, different silk crystal structures dissolve at different rates, so by carefully choosing which crystals to use in an implant, scientists can more precisely control how long an implant will take to completely degrade.
Why on earth would anyone want an electronic device that’s not built to last? Minimizing invasive procedures, for one. Once they’re inserted, there’s no reason for a follow-up surgery to remove the implant, which saves patients time and pain.
Also, because they dissolve naturally into the body, there’s no electronic waste to dispose of. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the scientists who developed this technology are also thinking of ways to apply it to other technology that people replace regularly such as cell phones.
Once again, silk is helping to potentially save lives and and the environment. What can't this wonderful fiber do?