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Ultrathin Electronic Patch Devised for Medical Applications

Electronic patch (John Rodgers/University of Illinois-Champaign)

Electronic patch (John Rodgers/University of Illinois-Champaign)

Engineers in the U.S., Singapore, and China have developed a technology platform that makes possible electronic medical functions such as sensing or diagnostics in an ultrathin patch worn directly on the skin. The team that developed this technology, led by John Rogers of University of Illinois in Champaign, published its findings in this week’s issue of the journal Science (paid subscription required).

The electronic patch bends, wrinkles, and stretches with the mechanical properties of skin, and with the ease, flexibility, and comfort of a temporary tattoo. The patch can even be applied as a temporary tattoo.

The researchers report that a wide range of circuitry can be attached to the basic platform. In the Science article, the team demonstrated the integration of sensors, transistors, light-emitting diodes, photodetectors, radio frequency inductors, capacitors, oscillators, and rectifying diodes. The researchers also showed the potential for providing power through an integrated solar cell.

As a sensor or detector device, the electronic patch offers a number of advantages. The patch requires no extra tape, gels, or attaching wires. It also can provide readings in more natural, day-to-day settings than in a medical facility.

In addition to sensor functions, the patch has the potential provide for more complex human-machine interfaces. When applied to the skin of the throat, for example, the sensors could distinguish muscle movement for simple speech. The researchers also reported using the electronic patches to control a video game.

Rogers co-founded the company mc10, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to commercialize the electronic patch and related technologies from his lab. The company is backed by North Bridge Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital company, and other investors.

Read more: Head Cap Devised to Capture Brain Signals to Control Devices

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