E-skin? Bionic skin? No matter the name, the ‘ultimate wearable’ for monitoring is advancing.

‘Bionic skin’ as the ultimate wearable has been taking several dimensions. TTA Editors have previously reported on tattoo-like stretchy sensors applied to the skin for monitoring vital signs from a variety of academic and commercial developers. Here are two new advances of interest for those who follow the progress of wearables:

  • click to enlargeFrom University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering, a team led by Professor Takao Someya has developed an e-skin (left) that can measure vital signs and basic images, send them to clinicians, and–in what may be a first–display them on the surface in real time. This feature is useful for anyone, but especially for those who have difficulty communicating information due to speech or cognitive impairments. According to EurekaAlert, it combines a flexible, deformable display with a lightweight sensor composed of a breathable nanomesh electrode and wireless communication module. Developed in conjunction with Dai Nippon Printing (DNP), it is a 16 x 24 array of micro LEDs and stretchable wiring mounted on a rubber sheet. In its test form, it communicated temperature, pressure, myoelectricity (the electrical properties of muscle), and recorded an ECG. DNP expects to commercialize it in three years and improving its coverage for larger surfaces. It lasts about one week without creating irritation, another major factor in skin sensors. Video on EurekaAlert. Also Engadget. A paper on this research was delivered at AAAS last week
  • More information on Prof. Someya’s research is available in this IEEE Spectrum article, largely about the challenges of e-skin flexibility for use in patches and in prosthetics. Their research is utilizing TFTs (thin film transistors) and plastic skin one-tenth the thickness of common plastic wrap as the most sensitive and adaptable technologies.
  • University of Colorado Boulder has developed a monitoring e-skin that self-heals if damaged, which may extend e-skin life and usability. It uses a polymer (polyimine) laced with silver nanoparticles which can be repaired by easily available ethanol compounds and is fully recyclable with another solution that separates out the silver. The test patch conducts temperature and pressure. This looks thicker than plastic wrap, however. Engadget
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