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Wearable Biomedical Sensors Printed Directly On Your Skin

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University, Harbin Institute of Technology in China have developed a way to print electronic sensors, as well as the accompanying electronics, directly onto the skin without using any heat in the process.


(Biomedical sensor printed directly on skin)

A soft body area sensor network presents a promising direction in wearable devices to integrate on-body sensors for physiological signal monitoring and flexible printed circuit boards (FPCBs) for signal conditioning/readout and wireless transmission. However, its realization currently relies on various sophisticated fabrication approaches such as lithography or direct printing on a carrier substrate before attaching to the body.

Here, we report a universal fabrication scheme to enable printing and room-temperature sintering of the metal nanoparticle on paper/fabric for FPCBs and directly on the human skin for on-body sensors with a novel sintering aid layer. Consisting of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) paste and nanoadditives in the water, the sintering aid layer reduces the sintering temperature.

Together with the significantly decreased surface roughness, it allows for the integration of a submicron-thick conductive pattern with enhanced electromechanical performance. Various on-body sensors integrated with an FPCB to detect health conditions illustrate a system-level example.

(Wearable Circuits Sintered at Room Temperature Directly on the Skin Surface for Health Monitoring)

Fans of science fiction writer Greg Bear may recall that in his 2009 novel Mariposa, the dattoo, a personal wearable data communication device worn on the skin:

The doctor watched him closely while he pulled out a reddish-purple dragon about two inches long, printed on a sheet of pliable plastic. The package also contained a badge on a black braided lanyard and a photo of a woman with medium-long hair.

"These are my credentials for the COPES conference, across the street," Plover said. "They'll get you past most of the outer security. The dragon is a skin computer, a dattoo. People put it on their arms and exchange personal data.

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