The days when a mesh of wires and electrodes used to monitor patients are passé, as a group of researchers have designed a hair-thin wireless electronic film which can be patched on the skin directly for monitoring purposes.
A group of U.S. scientists posted their findings in the journal of science. The device, which is thinner than hair, was used to monitor the heart and brain.
The electronic skin acts like temporary tattoo and stays patched through wear-and-tear caused by flexing of muscles.
The BBC reported that the parts of the electronic patch are built out of thin wavy snake-like component. The film-like device measures less than 50 micrometers thick, and is patched on the skin using a water soluble sheet of plastic.
The key components an electronic device the size of a hair thin film has to squeeze in include a sensor for sensing physiological data from the patient's body, a structural support for supporting the sensor patch, an adhesive for attaching the sensor patch, an electronics package including a power supply and a circuitry for processing the sensed data to produce an alert, communication equipment for passing the sensed data from the sensor to the electronics package, and a transmitter for transmitting the signal from the patch to the monitoring equipment.
In light of these requirements, the reserachers have achieved the gargantuan task of placing all this gadgetry on a hair thin flexible wafer.
The researchers stated that the electronic film stayed on the skin for 24 hours. John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, speaking about the invention, said: "The goal is really to blur the distinction between electronics and biological tissue."
The experiment involved monitoring brain, heart and muscle activity.
It was also highlighted that the technology can also be used for voice-command based technologies, as the device can be placed on a person's throat to decipher certain words. Thus command-based functions can be incorporated.
The technology is part of the wearable health system (WHS) technology, whereby research is being done to identify non-invasive and wireless techniques of monitoring physiological signals. The system is made as an electronic patch where sensors, low power electronics, and radio communication are integrated in an adhesive material of hydrocolloid polymer, making it a sticking patch.