ConspectusRecent advances in materials chemistry establish the foundations for unusual classes of electronic systems, characterized by their ability to fully or partially dissolve, disintegrate, or otherwise physically or chemically decompose in a controlled fashion after some defined period of stable operation. Such types of "transient" technologies may enable consumer gadgets that minimize waste streams associated with disposal, implantable sensors that disappear harmlessly in the body, and hardware-secure platforms that prevent unwanted recovery of sensitive data. This second area of opportunity, sometimes referred to as bioresorbable electronics, is of particular interest due to its ability to provide diagnostic or therapeutic function in a manner that can enhance or monitor transient biological processes, such as wound healing, while bypassing risks associated with extended device load on the body or with secondary surgical procedures for removal.Early chemistry research established sets of bioresorbable materials for substrates, encapsulation layers, and dielectrics, along with several options in organic and bio-organic semiconductors. The subsequent realization that nanoscale forms of device-grade monocrystalline silicon, such as silicon nanomembranes (m-Si NMs, or Si NMs) undergo hydrolysis in biofluids to yield biocompatible byproducts over biologically relevant time scales advanced the field by providing immediate routes to high performance operation and versatile, sophisticated levels of function. When combined with bioresorbable conductors, dielectrics, substrates, and encapsulation layers, Si NMs provide the basis for a broad, general class of bioresorbable electronics. Other properties of Si, such as its piezoresistivity and photovoltaic properties, allow other types of bioresorbable devices such as solar cells, strain gauges, pH sensors, and photodetectors. The most advanced bioresorbable devices now exist as complete systems with successful demonstrations of clinically relevant modes of operation in animal models.This Account highlights the foundational materials concepts for this area of technology, starting with the dissolution chemistry and reaction kinetics associated with hydrolysis of Si NMs as a function of temperature, pH, and ion and protein concentration. A following discussion focuses on key supporting materials, including a range of dielectrics, metals, and substrates. As comparatively low performance alternatives to Si NMs, bioresorbable organic semiconductors are also presented, where interest derives from their intrinsic flexibility, low-temperature processability, and ease of chemical modification. Representative examples of encapsulation materials and strategies in passive and active control of device lifetime are then discussed, with various device illustrations. A final section outlines bioresorbable electronics for sensing of various biophysical parameters, monitoring electrophysiological activity, and delivering drugs in a programmed manner.Fundamental research in chemistry remains essential to the development of this emerging field, where continued advances will increase the range of possibilities in sensing, actuation, and power harvesting. Materials for encapsulation layers that can delay water-diffusion and dissolution of active electronics in passively or actively triggered modes are particularly important in addressing areas of opportunity in clinical medicine, and in secure systems for envisioned military and industrial uses. The deep scientific content and the broad range of application opportunities suggest that research in transient electronic materials will remain a growing area of interest to the chemistry community.
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