27 September 2023

Another ink in the chain: How a soft skin ‘e-tattoo’ could save your life

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Daisy Hernandez* says new technology in an e-tattoo has the potential to detect deadly heart diseases before they strike.

New tech from the University of Texas at Austin, USA has the potential to save thousands of lives claimed by heart disease every year.

Engineers — led by Nanshu Lu, an Associate Professor of Aerospace, Mechanical, and Biomedical Engineering — designed a wearable electronic tattoo (pictured), more commonly known as an “e-tattoo”.

The device is able to monitor cardiac health with the most accuracy when it’s placed directly over the heart.

And because you wear it for an extended amount of time, the e-tattoo provides a more thorough picture of your heart’s health than traditional electrocardiograph (ECG) machines.

Another plus: no wires.

The entire system is wirelessly monitored via smartphone, so all you have to do is stick the device to your chest and let it do its job.

The e-tattoo is built from the thermoplastic polyvinylidene fluoride and graphene, which is an allotrope of carbon that’s 100 times stronger than steel.

Because the graphene is incredibly thin and flexible, it easily adheres to your skin, so you barely feel it.

Graphene is also conductive and quite impermeable to liquids, making it an ideal material for this kind of application.

Compared to traditional ECG machines, e-tattoos are also much cheaper to produce.

“The material and fabrication cost of our dual-mode e-tattoos are orders of magnitude lower than state-of-the-art holster system and stethoscope,” Lu told Popular Mechanics.

Lu and her team are still making adjustments to the e-tattoo, but she says they’re “close to finishing” their work.

Although a final product won’t be on the market until further testing takes place, Lu adds that the team is “in discussion with a major pharmaceutical company to validate [the e-tattoo] first on non-human primates and hopefully eventually on human subjects”.

* Daisy Hernandez writes for Runner’s World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics.

This article first appeared at www.popularmechanics.com

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