Here is a tattoo-like thin wearable device that can detect heart attacks, Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy attacks, store your body information and deliver medicine to your body, besides collecting patient health, treatment and monitoring at one time.
Researchers in the US have created an ‘electronic skin’ that can store and transmit data about a person’s movements, receive diagnostic information and release drugs into skin, which has been altered considerably to detect heart condition too.
What we are talking here is a “sticky patch containing a device roughly five centimetres long, two cm wide and 0.003 millimetres thick”, said Nanshu Lu, a mechanical engineer at University of Texas in Austin.
The researchers constructed the device by layering a package of stretchable nanomaterials – sensors that detect temperature and motion, resistive RAM for data storage, microheaters and drugs – onto a material that mimics the softness and flexibility of the skin.
“The novelty is really in the integration of the memory device,” Stephanie Lacour, an engineer at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, added.
The device works if it is connected to a power supply and data transmitter, both of which need to be made similarly compact and flexible before the prototype can be used routinely in patients.
“Although some commercially available components, such as lithium batteries and radio-frequency identification tags can do this work, they are too rigid for the soft-as-skin brand of electronic device,” Lu explained.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology1.
Otherwise, the ‘Electronic skin’, patch was developed three years ago by John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his colleagues. But it should be removed after few days and researchers hope that the technology could one day allow doctors to monitor patients’ health without wires.
In a study published in Science in 2011, Rogers said, “We focused on the throat because it really highlights the mechanical invisibility of these epidermal electronics, even on a sensitive part of the body.”
The device might be used to help people with laryngeal diseases communicate, to monitor premature babies, or to enhance the control of prosthetics. Rogers is also collaborating with physical therapists to use the skin to induce muscle contractions in regions of the body that have degenerated.
The electronic skin consists of sensors, antennae, light-emitting diodes and other components, sandwiched between two protective layers. It is powered by embedded solar cells or by inductive coils and measures less than 40 micrometres thick.
The electronic skin is also expensive to make. “We’re building on existing technology rather than reinventing it, so I think the technical hurdles to commercial manufacture are lower than you’d ordinarily see,” Rogers had said.
Similar device unveiled on Thursday by senior researchers from the Northwestern University shows a five centimetre square small device can be placed directly on the skin and worn round-the-clock on the wrist. It uses thousands of tiny liquid crystals on a flexible substrate to sense heat. When the device turns colour, the wearer knows something is wrong.
“Our device is mechanically invisible. It is ultra-thin and comfortable, much like skin itself,” said Yonggang Huang, the lead researcher. The device has 3,600 liquid crystals, each half a millimetre square and is stretchable.
An algorithm translates the temperature data into an accurate health report, all in less than 30 seconds. “These results provide the first examples of ‘epidermal’ photonic sensors,” said Rogers.