Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tattoo like electronic patch to monitor health

Researchers at the University of Illinois have designed an ultra-thin electronic device that can be applied to skin like a temporary tattoo and can be used in sensing, medical diagnostics, communications and human-machine interfaces.

The circuit bends, wrinkles, and stretches with the mechanical properties of skin.

These electronic tattoos could one day help doctors to diagnose and monitor health conditions of patients non-invasively.

The researchers demonstrated their concept through a diverse array of electronic components mounted on a thin, rubbery substrate, including sensors, LEDs, transistors, radio frequency capacitors, wireless antennas, and conductive coils and solar cells for power.

"We threw everything in our bag of tricks onto that platform, and then added a few other new ideas on top of those, to show that we could make it work," said John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder professor of engineering at the University of Illinois, and lead author of the study.

The patches are initially mounted on a thin sheet of water-soluble plastic, then laminated to the skin with water – just like applying a temporary tattoo.

Alternately, the electronic components can be applied directly to a temporary tattoo itself, providing concealment for the electronics.

"We think this could be an important conceptual advance in wearable electronics, to achieve something that is almost unnoticeable to the wearer," said U. of I. electrical and computer engineering professor Todd Coleman, who co-led the multi-disciplinary team.

"The technology can connect you to the physical world and the cyberworld in a very natural way that feels very comfortable," he added.

Skin-mounted electronics have many biomedical applications, including EEG and EMG sensors to monitor nerve and muscle activity.

The researchers have described their novel skin-mounted electronics in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Science .

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