A study published in August in science magazine shows that ultra-thin, self-adhesive electronic patches can measure muscle, heart and brain activity. The sensors, attached to thin, curved wires that can bend without breaking, react to charge, heat and vibration. One version of the sensor that measures the heart’s electrical activity has been shown to measure signals just as well as an electrocardiogram (EKG).
The patch, flatter than a human hair, has been compared to a stick-on tattoo – the wires and components are integrated into a polyester backing, also used in temporary tattoos.
The technology, designed to achieve physical properties that match the epidermis, has been called a hybrid of electronics and biology.
In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Princeton University mechanical engineer Michael McAlpine said this kind of device could lead to thinking about skin-mounted computers or bionic eyes. “You could, for example, have Google maps on the surface of your eye,” he said.
Other patches using the technology are currently being researched and designed, with applications ranging from reducing the need for bulky electronics in hospital rooms to electronic bandages that could speed the wound healing process.