Scientific illustration by Ashley Christopherson
Robots & Machines

Scientists Created a Battery That Self-Destructs in 30 Minutes

Spies, listen up.

Transient Electronics

If you’re developing any sort of revolutionary small-scale tech, chances are, you’ve come across problems with the battery. Teams have been developing edible electronics, but they still use conventional, toxic batteries that are less than edible.

Transient electronics have the same problems, but that may be changing. A team from Iowa State University has developed a battery that can deliver a 2.5 volt charge for 15 minutes, and then dissolve in water in half an hour.

Transient electronics are devices that are designed to self-destruct, dissolve, or disintegrate completely, like they never existed. But batteries are still a problem with this tech. “Any device without a transient power source isn’t really transient,”said team leader Reza Montezami, in a statement.

This new battery uses conventional lithium-ion technology. It’s made up of eight layers, including an anode, a cathode and the electrolyte separator, all wrapped up in two layers of a polyvinyl alcohol-based polymer.

The result is a 1 mm thick, 5 mm long and 6 mm wide battery. Upon exposure to water, it’s casing swells, breaking apart the electrodes and completely dissolving. While certain nanoparticles don’t degrade, those disperse so much that it doesn’t matter.

Spy Stuff

Obviously, this all has numerous applications, especially on the military side of things. Any Mission Impossible-esque spy could just plop his transient device into a puddle, and it would dissolve by itself, evading study by enemies.

But it could also be used in biodegradable electronic sensors or equipment, leaving a negligible environmental impact. Any scientist could just leave his equipment in the jungle, and precipitation would remove the danger of discarded equipment.

Or they could be used in the aforementioned edible electronics or implants, powering devices for a short time and then dissolving (toxicity issues would still have to be considered of course). Basically, although this has impressive implications for people like Inspector Gadget, the medical industry will definitely benefit from this impressive innovation.

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