Layout of a typical epidermal electronic “tattoo” applied to the human skin with all accompanying sensors. (via University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
It appears as though stretchable and wearable electronics are beginning to see rapid advancement into the public eye. Professor John Rogers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign now shows us a new technological application of what he’s coined as “epidermal electronics” devices.
Roger’s research on stretchable electronics previously consisted of electronic meshes equipped with sensors, capacitors, and wireless power and communication systems that can be placed on the skin. The earlier versions used a rubber backing to attach on the skin’s surface to record and wirelessly transmit electrophysiological data used for medical purposes. In 2008, Rogers founded MC10 with the technology; the startup focused primarily on providing stretchable electronics to consumers for sport & health applications. With a few tweaks to the design, Rogers and colleagues have developed the device to conform directly to human skin, giving way to a wider range of medical applications.
The new design is made of an even thinner electronic mesh - 1/30th of the old thickness, to be exact - that bonds to the skin with the help of a spray-on bandage applicator. The direct attachment to the texturous epidermis combined with the thin bonding-agent layer allows the device to withstand more robust situations, such as swimming, until it falls off naturally after two-weeks from skin exfoliation.
Roger’s biostamp device is capable of measuring anything from skin hydration, temperature, and strain among other things while still managing to transfer all recorded data wirelessly. Potential applications include tracking one’s hydration level during illness, monitoring cardiac rhythm to ensure proper heart function, collecting data from a healing wound, or to record brain activity. Earlier reports claimed the possibility of using epidermal electronics to control machines wirelessly via thoughts! - Many potential applications to be discovered here.
The next in the process is to develop more suitable communication and wireless power transmission systems that can be paired with the device. Roger’s also mentions the potential of commercializing the technology through his MC10 startup in the near future, providing the average consumer access to their own electronic tattoo.
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