First Electronic Tattoo Printed Directly Onto Skin

Amanda Warren
Activist Post

Ever found yourself wanting a cool barcode tattoo like Agent 17 from the movie Hitman? Consistently looking for new ways to store all your “medical” information directly (quite literally) on your person at all times? Dissatisfied with your VeriChip’s performance?

First there were electronic stick-on tattoos with stretchable batteries – now the electronic sensors can be printed directly onto – and soon into – human skin.

Welcome to the world of “epidermal electronics” as introduced by John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois (U-C).

Rogers Group has introduced variations of flexible electronics before, with the group exploring various applications such as batteries, solar cells, and wireless equipment. But the newest innovation allows the ultrathin mesh electronics (essentially a computer) to be placed directly on the surface of the skin, eliminating the need for the elastomer backing previously used as an adhesive.

The concepts have been developed for over 14 years with an aim to have chargeable circuits, wireless reading and connection to phones, iPads and other reading devices. They don’t just detect body temp and skin moisture but even electronic signals from the heart and brain.

Closeup of battery/sensors on skin

The stick-on sensors were very temporary and couldn’t withstand much. The skin-printable sensors stay on with a spray-able bandage and can last for two weeks, but that’s why under-the-skin embedded sensors are on the way for more permanency.

With this accomplishment the group continues to move forward, further developing the flexibility and capability of the already astoundingly thin and intricate battery. The expressed goal is better, targeted healthcare sensory and data. Which is why the work is funded by The Office of Naval Research, The Department of Energy, and – surprise – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?

Stretchable lithium-ion battery with video

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