Barsotti / Italian Institute of Technology / Futurism
Lighting Up

New Smart Tattoos Have Built-In Lights

byDan Robitzski
Feb 26
Barsotti / Italian Institute of Technology / Futurism

Signing up for some (temporary) glowing knuckle tats.

Glow Up

For the first time, engineers figured out how to make glowing tattoos embedded with the same kinds of lights that illuminate your phone and TV screen.

The tats could, if embedded with sensors or other smart tech, turn into useful medical sensors or even help keep food fresh, according to research published last month in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials. But that’s all so practical — the prospect of getting a glowing, electronic tattoo is just downright cool.

Any Other Name

Whether you call it a smart tattoo or a flexible wearable, the underlying tech could actually prove incredible valuable. For instance, the sensors make the tattoo glow when an athlete gets critically dehydrated or when food is about to expire — tattoo artists do practice on fruit skins, after all.

“In healthcare they could emit light when there is a change in a patient’s condition — or, if the tattoo was turned the other way into the skin, they could potentially be combined with light-sensitive therapies to target cancer cells, for instance,” senior study author Franco Cacialli, a physicist at University College London, said in a press release.

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All Good Things

It’s worth really spelling out that these glowing tattoos aren’t permanent, and are in fact applied and removed just like any other temporary tattoo. If you get tired of a glowing “LOVE” and “HATE” across your knuckles, the researchers say that you’ll be able to wash them off with soap and water.

As they exist right now, the tattoos can’t last long on their own anyway. The sensors degrade in relatively short order once they’re exposed to air, making them fade away into nothingness, making them a far more responsible option than that infinity sign you got scribbled across your ribs for your 21st birthday.

READ MORE: Light-emitting tattoo engineered for the first time [University College London]

More on smart tattoos: Google Is Working on Tattoos That Turn Your Body Into a Touchpad

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