Electronic Skin is a wearable sensor that can monitor patients’ health…
Scientist have developed an ultra thin electronics patch which can be place on the skin as easily as a temporary tattoo, to monitor vital signals, amplify speech and even control prosthetics, or electronic wheelchairs.
Should the ultra thin wearable sensor prove successful, it could be used in a wide range of medical applications and would eradicate the need for bulky equipment.
The patch, created by John Rogers, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Illinois and other institutions in the U.S., Singapore, and China, is just 1 mm thickness and consists of electric monitors sandwiched between silicon wafers.
The squiggly wires of the circuit allow the patch to mimic the properties of the skin so it can be bent stretched and scrunched without being damaged.
“The skin represents one of the most natural places to integrate electronics. As the largest organ in the body, and our primary sensory mode of interaction with the world, it plays a special role,” Rogers says.
The patch is applied using water-soluble elastomer that acts like a stick adhesive, and can be easily removed when needed.
Researchers have already shown that the patch can work on various parts of the body for different applications. In one study, the wearable sensor was worn on the chest and used to pick up signals from the heart. The data gathered by the system was just as accurate at that produced by hospital electrocardiogram.
In another study the patch was placed on the throat and configured to distinguish 4 voice commands, up, down, left and right, proving that the technology could not only help monitor patients vital signals, but could also be used to amplify speech and help people with disabilities control medical devices.
The current patch can only be used for a few days at a time, and because skin cells are constantly being shed, even with a longer lasting adhesive the patch would still need to be reapplied at least once every two weeks. It also needs to be tested on a range of skin conditions from dry to sweaty and sensitive skin.
Researchers are now working on more complex circuits, they’re also working to make the device wireless – it still needs to be plugged in to download information, and to add more components such as piezoelectric circuits which harvest energy from the body’s movements.