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New electronic tattoos are stamped directly on your skin

Posting in Technology

By getting rid of the polymer backing, researchers have found a way to stamp electronic tattoos directly on your skin -- making them wearable throughout your daily activities. Technology Review reports.

Epidermal electronics -- consisting of ultrathin electrodes, electronics, sensors, and wireless power and communication systems -- record electrophysiological measurements, helping to track health and monitor healing.

Earlier versions were more like temporary tattoos. They were applied with a thin, soft elastic polymer backing... which was fine if you never showered.

“What we’ve found is that you don’t even need the elastomer backing,” says John Rogers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “You can use a rubber stamp to just deliver the ultrathin mesh electronics directly to the surface of the skin.”

Printing it directly on the skin makes it more durable and rugged: you can wear it for up to two weeks before the skin’s natural exfoliation process causes it to flake off. Commercially available spray-on bandage can add a thin protective layer, bonding the system to the skin.

Eliminating the elastomer backing also makes it one-thirtieth as thick, allowing it to better conform to the skin’s rough surface (pictured).

The device can measure things like temperature, strain, and the hydration state of the skin. Specifically, it could monitor a surgical wound as it heals: when attached before the patient leaves the hospital, the device could take measurements and transmit that wirelessly to doctors and nurses.

The lab is working on refining wireless power sources and communication systems to be integrated into the system. The technology could potentially be commercialized by MC10, a company Rogers cofounded.

[Via Technology Review]

Image: University of Illinois

— By on March 11, 2013, 9:45 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure