Smart Skin: Electronics that Stick & Stretch like a Temporary Tattoo

Aug 16, 2011

electronic tatto on forehead                   easy removal of electronic tattoo     

The circuits’ filamentary serpentine shape allows them to bend, twist, scrunch and stretch while maintaining functionality. | Photo courtesy John Rogers

Researchers from the CIC Universities of Northwestern University,  the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Wisconsin--Madison have developed “tattoo electronics” -- wireless electronics so flexible and thin they can be applied to the skin and forgotten. The high-performance epidermal electronic system mounts directly onto the skin with the ease, flexibility and comfort of a temporary tattoo.

In this article on WebMD, Dr. John Rogers of the University of Illinois talks about the integration of electronics with the largest organ of the human body: the skin.  The BBC News story on the technology quotes Prof Zhenqiang Ma, an electrical and computer engineer at the University of Wisconsin, and highlights the solar cell technology used--tiny solar cells which can generate power or get energy from electromagnetic radiation. 

U.S. News & World Report focuses their article on the potential applications of the tattoos. University of Illinois', Dr. Rogers notes that "These devices are essentially invisible to the person who's wearing them so they can be very easily used for monitoring sleep without disrupting sleep patterns or to monitor premature babies, all kinds of scenarios where adhesive tape and wires are just not suitable."

The system also recognizes words and connects them with muscle movement, which allows the person to speak simple words such as "up," "down," "left" or "right" to direct a computer game.

"This foreshadows the use of technology in more advanced types of human-machine interface -- perhaps most compelling is control of prosthetics," Rogers said.

For more on this exciting new technology, visit Northwestern University's article, which includes a video of Dr. Yonggang Huang, the Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science illustrating the application of an electronic tattoo.

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