Electronic Skin, The Latest Innovation In The Medical World

Soon, patients may no longer need to wear bulky medical devices if the latest innovation in Japan goes full cycle. Japanese scientists have developed a tattoo like, ultra-thin electronic “skin” that can monitor heart rate and blood sugar. If the launch is successful, we can expect to replace our smartphones and rely on our skin for all things tech related.

What is Electronic Skin?

The electronic skin comes with an air stable and organic light emitting diode and is worn as a secondary skin for biomedical and other uses. The “skin” can also track the level of oxygen levels in organs during surgery. The goal is to create an e-skin that will become part of our everyday lives, just like clothes.

electronic skin

The organic material laminated onto the actual human skin does not degrade when exposed to oxygen.

If it eventuates, the e-skin will provide doctors with continuous information on the patient’s vital signs without necessarily having to attach or remove medical devices on the body. Athletes will also use the skin to view their work rate and sugar levels as well heart rates. The general public will use it to monitor body metrics.

What Researchers Claim

Plans are underway to make the e-skin display numbers and letters on the skin for health monitoring purposes. Takao Someya, who is spearheading the development of the e-skin at the University Of Tokyo Graduate School Of Engineering, says this is one innovation that will help people stay healthy without having to visit the doctor for checkups.

Electronic wearables have been around for a while now. However, most if not all don’t retain their characteristics for long in the open air or wet conditions. Additionally, plastic covers needed to support them have limited flexibility, are unreasonably thick and don’t have stability.

Unlike previous wearable electronics, the e-skin has a flexible protective film that allows it to continue functioning even in wet conditions.

“The ultrathin organic optical systems shown in this work represent ultra-flexible organic optical devices that are operated in ambient atmosphere. Eventually, flexible organic optical sensors may be directly laminated on organs to monitor the blood oxygen level during and after surgery” Someya says.

Someya adds that wearable electronics are the future of medical research, with interests in medical applications such as contact lenses that can monitor blood sugar or smart glasses.

Current Status of Electronic Skin

While it’s not clear whether there will be mass production of the e-skin, tests on volunteers shows that “skin” provided constant movement of oxygen in the blood.  As such, it could prove essential in surgical procedures according to Someya.

It is yet to be seen how well the e-skin by the general public and most importantly players in the medical industry.

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