While we've sat idly by through five Mission Impossible films for casually explosive, self-destructing messages to start appearing in our daily lives, a group of scientists at Iowa State University have created a dissolvable battery that actually self-destructs within 30 minutes.
The battery itself is very small, as it should be to remain functional. The one-millimeter-thick and five-millimeter-long device contains all the working components of a standard battery, similar to commercially developed batteries. It can power a standard desktop calculator for about 15 minutes. But when you drop this battery in water, its polymer casing swells, breaks apart the electrodes that keep it running, and dissolves away.
It isn't completely water soluble — bits of its casing contain nanoparticles that won't degrade entirely. But the fact that it can function normally for 15-minute increments before deconstructing at all is a big step in this new field of "transient" electronics.
Research efforts to develop transient electronics have grown over the past few years, with researchers and scientists exploring electronic devices that can perform different tasks, then self-destruct upon coming into contact with heat, light or liquid, for instance. Transient electronics could aid in gathering military intelligence, implanting medical devices that are typically painful to remove, or act as an environmentally-friendly alternative to standard electronic devices.