People will one day wear electronic skin patches, resembling tattoos, that diagnose health problems or deliver treatments. The patches have the potential to eliminate the need for patients to stay tethered to large machines in a doctor's office or hospital room for hours of treatment or monitoring. A patch is pictured on a person's wrist in the above image. The research was presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.
The electronic skin patches are about the thickness of a human hair. People wearing them cannot feel them on their skin. The patches contain full-scale electronic circuits needed to monitor health status. They also contain wireless capabilities that could be used to transmit data to the patient's cell phone and to the physician's office.
John Rogers, Ph.D., co-founder of mc10
, says, "A key feature of our epidermal electronics is its natural interface to the body, without wires, pins, adhesives or gels, to allow a much more comfortable and functional system. The technology can be used to monitor brain, heart or muscle activity in a completely noninvasive way, while a patient is at home."
Rogers and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed the patches to not only be flexible, but stretchable to move with the natural motions of the skin as people go about their normal business. The patches are transferred to the skin just like a temporary tattoo. A modified form of spray-on bandages is applied over the patch. This spray protects the circuit from water and normal wear-and-tear and keeps it on the skin for up to a week.
Photo: John Rogers, Ph.D.