MR O.K. via Unsplash/Futurism
Thin Skin

New Wearables Can Be Printed Directly Onto Skin

byDan Robitzski
10. 12. 20
MR O.K. via Unsplash/Futurism

Just in time for "Cyberpunk: 2077."

Temporary Tattoo

A team of scientists developed new wearable sensors that can be manufactured directly onto someone’s skin — without burning the recipient in the process.

Typically, manufacturing wearable circuits — flexible sensors or devices that fit and stick to the skin — requires a lot of heat. By finding a way to fabricate them at room temperature, as described in research published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the Penn State University scientists behind the technique hope to develop new medical sensors that are a much better fit for the individual patient.

Colder, Colder…

The process of sintering, or bonding the metals that make up the flexible circuits, usually happens at 572 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The skin surface cannot withstand such a high temperature, obviously,” Penn State engineer and lead author Hanyu “Larry” Cheng said in a press release. “To get around this limitation, we proposed a sintering aid layer — something that would not hurt the skin and could help the material sinter together at a lower temperature.”

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Cheng and his team were gradually able to lower the sintering heat down to room temperature by mixing in compounds like polyvinyl alcohol paste, the main ingredient in skincare face masks.

Peel Away

The end result is medical sensors, specifically tailored to a person’s body, that can be easily rinsed away with warm water.

“It could be recycled, since removal doesn’t damage the device,” Cheng said. “And, importantly, removal doesn’t damage the skin, either. That’s especially important for people with sensitive skin, like the elderly and babies. The device can be useful without being an extra burden to the person using it or to the environment.”

READ MORE: Engineers print wearable sensors directly on skin without heat [Penn State]

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More on wearable sensors: Google Is Working on Tattoos That Turn Your Body Into a Touchpad


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