A skin-like electronic device has been engineered by a team of scientists led by professor John A Rogers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. They have introduced to the world an “ultrathin, low-modulus, lightweight, stretchable skin-like membrane”, inside which they embedded various electronic sensors. It can be applied directly to the skin like a temporary tattoo and the sensors will move along with the skin.
The researchers describe in their article, published in the latest issue of Science, the importance of the mechanophysiology of the skin for this project and how they engineered their device. It contained several kinds of sensors and matched the physical properties of the epidermis. After application on the skin they successfully tested their sensor by measuring electrical activity produced by the heart, brain and skeletal muscles.
The device could be used for many purposes, like patient monitoring in clinical settings and human-machine interfaces. Using this thin material, mobile monitoring could become better and the devices used could become less bulky. For future use, the materials should be able to overcome the problems of sweating and continuous cell turnover in the skin. The researchers will also be working on a way to integrate various devices into a working system.
Rogers, professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the founder of MC10, the company which is trying to develop commercial uses for the device, sadly couldn’t estimate how long it will take for the patch to become commercially available.
Press release: Smart skin: Electronics that stick and stretch like a temporary tattoo …
Abstract in Science: Epidermal Electronics