Take one chip and and wait for the results

The realisation that silicon dissolves slowly in water could lead to a new class of medical sensor, Professor John Rogers claimed in a keynote at this year's Design Automation Conference, which took place recently in San Francisco.

Prof Rogers – pictured using his phone to scan a skin 'tattoo' sensor during his DAC keynote – and his team from the University of Illinois have combined silicon with magnesium oxides and silk to build water soluble sensors. One such sensor, that monitors brain injuries by measuring pressure and temperature, is being tested in rats.

Although the team has not yet been able to integrate wireless transmitters into the devices, it has included molybdenum wires that lead from the cranium to an external transmitter. Previously, the team has developed skin mounted patches that communicate using wireless.

"The platform is absorbable on the timescale of a week," Prof Rogers said. If successful, the biodegradable sensors will make it possible to avoid the need to perform additional surgery after treatment for brain injuries.