Just What The Doc Ordered.. A Tattoo!
If John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his team have their way, it will not be long before doctors may be able to place an electronic device the size of a postage stamp as a temporary tattoo on your skin to monitor your health.
How does it work?
For doctors and patients, it is critical to be able to gather real time readings of temperature, blood flow, muscle movements, heart monitoring and blood pressure for quality health care. Imagine being tied down to bulky expensive equipment for monitoring ECG, and blood pressure. For patients a non-invasive temporary tattoo with sensors that moves along with the skin to read the body’s vital signs and one that can electronically send the information to the doctor’s computer, would be a boon.
Well if it was all that simple it would have been adopted a long while ago. Unfortunately materials have been the constraint. Silicon, the basis of electronic circuitry and computers is hard and brittle. It is not possible to make the wafers work on soft pliable skin. But that is where the team of scientists worked out a solution.
Let's play the Accordion
The scientists have come up with a material which is a form of elastic electronics that is biological and tissue-like. These patches or skins can deliver and monitor electric impulses into living tissue, and at the same time record the information from the impulses.
But that did not still solve the issue of silicon. In order to make the electronic material bend like a sheet of paper and stretch like a rubber band, the team arranged silicon wires in an accordion like 'bellow' fashion. They designed the device so that its wires could unfold letting the silicon strands move without shattering. Now, after three years of research, the scientists have produced a working device that looks like tiny, twisty snakes that wind through the stretchable material in complicated patterns. They form the different parts of the device – the sensors, antennae and power supply. Miraculously, this device can withstand stretching, poking and squeezing!
When placed on a forehead, the device can record brainwaves; on the wrist, it can record blood flow and muscle movement. They even found that when stuck to the throat, it can function as a secret cell phone, activated by the movements of a person’s voice box.
Other potential uses
While the product is not yet commercially available, it is merely a matter of time before the device will be available for use. Beyond biomedical uses, the device could have limitless uses and probably only restricted by our imagination. Imagine being able to read somebody’s thoughts or talk to someone without actually speaking.
Can you come up with some creative uses for a device such as this?
Courtesy: Science News for Kids