Innovation and technology

The Future is Exciting: Temporary Electronic Tattoos

Researchers have developed a new method that allows electronic circuits to be placed on the skin as easily as a child's tattoo.

Researchers from the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh (CMU) and the Institute of Systems and Robotics at Portugal's University of Coimbra have developed a simple and efficient method to attach robust and flexible circuits directly to human skin. Previous techniques for electronic tattoos have usually been too costly, but the new method should enable anyone to augment their skin with a wafer-thin network.

Numerous areas of application

This technology could be used to connect all kinds of gadgets and devices that need information from human skin. In medicine, it could be used to connect measuring devices for physiological monitoring, such as blood glucose levels. But electronic tattoos could soon replace finger clips or heart monitors. This could also revolutionize the world of fitness wearables. Motion sensors and speedometers could be integrated into the circuits, eliminating the need for watches, bands or similar accessories. Flexible displays could also find their way onto our skin via this technology.

Tattoos for the cyborgs of tomorrow

According to Carmel Majidi, lecturer in mechanical engineering at CMU, the team has discovered a new way to make electronic tattoos. The circuits are printed on a layer for temporary tattoos, like the ones typically purchased for children. The circuits are made of silver nanoparticles coated with a layer of liquid metal alloy, they said. The liquid metal combines with the nanoparticles to form conductive wires on the tattoo. This could be applied to the skin by anyone with a damp sponge, he said. The connectivity is good enough for functioning digital circuits, he said. Even if the skin is stretched or bent, functionality is maintained.