John A Rogers Electronic Tattoo, Epidermal Electronics Systems…

Genius inventor John A Rogers and his research group have produced the first flexible stretchable adhesive electronic device that can be applied to the skin. Epidermal electronic systems – EES. Initially designed as a biological sensor the electric tattoo has potential to be much more than an expression of difference or rebellious body art. Biologic sensors built-into the device can detect brain waves, muscle activity, temperature and monitor for heart arrhythmia.
Looking like a crumpled spiderweb the device combines flexible electronics with clever flexible wiring, giving the electronic tattoo staying power. Using Radio Frequency Identification, ESS can be used to non-invasively track patients for progress , and possibly minimizing medication or surgical mistakes. The sensing functions allow basic body function to be measured wirelessly.
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The snake-like connectors link electronic components acting like extension leads, where as wires on a circuit board tend to be straight – limiting the amount of movement – Rogers clever snake-like wires allow movement and flexibility. Using bendy wires as part of the design is clever engineering, the work done to make the electronic component flexible now that is genius.
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“Our goal was to develop an electronic technology that could integrate with the skin in a way that is mechanically and physiologically invisible to the user,” says Rogers.
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Many of the ESS functions are already commonly performed by today’s medical equipment which often involves the use of bulky equipment, conductive fluids or glues. The electric tattoo allows sensors to be permanently worn, without discomfort. Researchers are currently attempting to extend the life of ESS, currently devices only last 24 hours when worn continuously. ESS can also be fitted to places that sensors have struggled, the throat for example. In a series of tests EES were placed on the throat and vocal cord activity recorded with enough accuracy to distinguish words. By using extremely thin wires the entire EES is only 50 microns thick, thinner than a human hair, also giving it a strangely soft feel against the skin. The polyester backing doesn’t actually require any glue to adhere to the skin the thinness of the device and electron interactions between the skin and the device cause Van der Waals Interactions that holds the two together.
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In the current generation device power is harvested from RF signals or mini solar collectors but miniature batteries and capacitors are in the works. The whole device has very low power requirements allowing almost any power source to be used , body heat thermal harvesting ?
Each of the electric tattoos is made from a selection of electronic components specially designed to work within the device. So far biological sensors, light sensors, LED lights, transmitters, receivers and network communications components have been created. The components are wired together with bendy wires.
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ESS was developed with collaborators from multiple, tag team science with researchers from University of Illinois, Northwestern University, Tufts University, the Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore, and Dalian University of Technology in China. The team is also working on other technology breakthroughs. The eyeball video camera modelled off the curved human eyeball and heart monitoring tape that actually wraps around the heart.
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“This work is really just beginning,” adds Rogers. “On the technology side, our focus is on wireless communication and improved solutions for power-such as batteries, storage capacitors and mechanical energy harvesters-to complement the inductive and solar concepts that we demonstrate in the present paper.”
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As a medical device the EES is a powerful game changing device, it will become the basis for safe more efficient hospitals that will always hear our heart beating, wirelessly. Here at highpants we want to see more LED’s, then it can be a hit in the clubs and hospitals.
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More information at National Science Foundation, photo credit to J. Rogers, University of Illinois
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Buddha’s Brother out…