Biosensors as temporary tattoos


Continuing efforts to more seamlessly integrate biosensors with our bodies, Princeton University researchers developed a temporary tattoo-like platform for "epidermal electronics." Nanoengineer Michael McAlpine and his colleagues published their work in last week's issue of the journal Science. From Science News:

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The electronic components — which can include light-emitting diodes, solar cells, transistors and antennae, among other things — were all constructed in a malleable net of wavy S-shapes similar to old-fashioned coiled telephone cords, which allows the circuits to work when stretched in any direction.

The researchers sandwiched these components between two protective layers of polyimide, a type of polymer. These layers sit on top of a rubbery silicone film that adheres to skin with weak chemical bonds. The device can also be applied in a temporary tattoo, which both disguises the grid and makes it stick longer.

Rogers is focused on medical applications for the electronic skin. But the basic building blocks of the system can be configured in many ways for widely different uses, he says.

“I think creative folks out there will think of things we haven’t even contemplated,” Rogers says.

For example, the technology has drawn the interest of security-minded people who might be interested in using the electronics to develop a covert communication system. “CIA and others have been interested,” Rogers says. A tiny hidden patch of electronics on the throat, for instance, could allow two agents to covertly communicate with one another. The electronics could detect and transmit muscle activity that represents words, all without the person making a sound.

"Computers Get Under Our Skin"