Graphene tattoo

The graphene skin tattoo. Credit photo: The University of Texas at Austin

In April 2016 I posted a news on South Korean researchers who created a graphene based patch to detect the sugar level in sweat. This is useful to people suffering from diabetes who need to check the sugar level in their blood. With the patch no more daily pricks are needed, besides the patch monitor continuously the sugar level and can raise an alarm if it approaches dangerous levels.

 

Now researchers at Austin University created a sort of skin tattoo made of an almost transparent layer of graphene (see photo) that can sense a variety of parameters, including electrical signals from the hear, brain and muscle activity plus temperature and humidity (skin hydration). It is the thinnest epidermal electronics created so far.

Graphene, one atom thick, conforms to the ridges of our skin and becomes absolutely unnoticeable so one could wear it without any discomfort.

The researchers demonstrated that a graphene tattoo layered on the chest can detect minute variation in the heart electrical activity, with better sensitivity that today’s electrodes used in ECG, and can do that through the day, like a Holter device.

The layer is 0.3nm thick and it is layered on a polymer support 463nm thick (that is half a micron thick, that is 1/200th  of a sheet of paper or 1/20th of a household foil).

The next step for the researchers is to embed an antenna and some energy scavenging component to wirelessly transmit the data.

 

In the next decade I am willing to bet we will start wearing these patches as a normal way to monitor our health. They will be truly wearable and we won’t notice them anymore.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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