Mind & Matter


Electronic Tattoos

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Epidermal Electronic System (EES), courtesy of Science. Photo by John A. Rodgers.


Historically, tattoos and body art have fulfilled the need to augment one’s physique with enhanced visual information. Recently, scientists have developed additional functionality for the tattoo in the form of anatomical monitoring. In a recent Science article entitled “Epidermal Electronics,” the authors report on new devices made of ultrathin polymers with embedded circuitry. These electronic tattoos measure bodily changes in heart, muscle, and brain activity via electrical signals, and may be attached directly to the skin without the use of adhesives or bulky materials.

Only 30 microns thick, the epidermal electronic system (EES) is compatible with both the stiffness and relief of human skin, and adheres using only Van der Waals forces—making its presence hardly noticeable. Current prototypes use silicon-based PV cells to generate solar energy, and the scientists are exploring the use of wireless inductive power for low-light functionality.

In addition to monitoring the body for medical purposes, other target applications of EES include communication (silent speech using throat muscle activity) and entertainment (video games).




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.