What if a tattoo could double up as device that monitors your health? A team of South Korean researchers are working on just that.
If successful, South Koreans may soon be able to carry a device inside their own bodies in the form of a bespoke tattoo that automatically alerts them to potential health problems.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in the city of Daejeon, southwest of Seoul, have developed an electronic tattoo ink made of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes that functions as a bioelectrode.
A bioelectrode serves as an interface between biological structures and electronic systems. Its function is to either sense and measure the electrical activity within the body or stimulate it by inducing external electrical potential.
Hooked up to an electrocardiogram (ECG) device or other biosensor, the device can send a readout of a patient’s heart rate and other vital signs such glucose and lactate to a monitor. The researchers eventually aim to be able to dispense with biosensors.
‘In the future, what we hope to do is connect a wireless chip integrated with this ink, so that we can communicate, or we can send signal back and forth between our body to an external device,’ said project leader Steve Park, a materials science and engineering professor.
Such monitors could in theory be located anywhere, including in patients’ homes.
‘When it is applied to the skin, even with rubbing the tattoo doesn’t come off, which is not possible with just liquid metal,’ said Park.
The ink is non-invasive and made from particles based on gallium, a soft, silvery metal used in semiconductors and thermometers. Platinum-decorated carbon nanotubes help conduct electricity while providing durability.