Materials scientist John Rogers and his firm MC10 have developed flexible electronic circuits that stick directly to the skin like temporary tattoos and monitor the wearer’s health.
The Biostamp is a thin electronic mesh that stretches with the skin and monitors temperature, hydration and strain.
Rogers suggests that his “epidermal electronics” could be developed for use in healthcare to monitor patients without tethering them to large machines. Not only would this be more convenient, but the results could be more accurate if patients were examined in their normal environment doing usual activities rather than on the hospital ward.
Other applications could include a patch that lets an athlete know when and how much to hydrate for peak performance, or one that tells you when to apply more suncream.
MC10 overcame the rigidity of normal electronic components made from brittle silicon-based wafers by printing them in very small pieces, arranged in wavy patterns.
Earlier versions were applied on an elastomer backing patch, but the latest prototype is applied directly to the skin using a rubber stamp. It can be covered with spray-on bandage available from pharmacies to make it more durable and waterproof enough to withstand sweating or washing with soapy water. It lasts up to two weeks before the skin’s natural exfoliation causes it to come away.
The team are now working on the integration of wireless power sources and communication systems to relay the information gathered to a smartphone.