“Electronic tattoo” moving out of sci-fi realm
By Martin LaMonica
January 30, 2012 1:03 PM
Researchers are making progress bridging the soft, wet world of the
human body and electronics.
The National Science Foundation today released a video giving the
latest news from researchers trying to develop flexible electronics
that can be placed on the skin or embedded in the body. The hope is
that these devices can be used to diagnose or provide care to
The group is testing prototype circuits that can detect muscle, heart,
and brain activity with a skin-attached temporary “tattoo.” These
devices, made from small curly wires embedded in flexible membranes,
perform as well as rigid electrodes, according to the NSF.
A group of researchers, including Northwestern University professor
Yonggang Huang and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor
John Rogers, last year published a paper in Science on “epidermal
electronics” which could be attached to patients’ skin and still
function as the body moves and stretches the skin.
In the video prepared by the National Science Foundation, which
partially funds the research, Rogers said he is experimenting with
electronics embedded in the body for providing treatment to the heart,
brain, or muscle tissue.
One is an “electronic sock” wrapped around a heart that could inject
current to prevent an irregular heartbeat. Another application would
be a circuit implanted on the brain to prevent seizures.
The group also intends to build elastic electronics with an onboard
power source and wireless networking to aid in diagnostics and
treatment, Huang said.