Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Northwestern University have demonstrated soft stick-on patches that stretch and move with the skin and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for wireless health monitoring. According to a UIUC news release, the patches stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo and incorporate a microfluidic construction with wires to allow the patch to bend and flex. The patches could be used for daily health tracking, wirelessly sending updates to a cell phone or computer, and may be an advance in clinical monitoring.

Yonggang Huang, PhD, explains, “We designed this device to monitor human health 24/7, but without interfering with a person’s daily activity. It is as soft as human skin and can move with your body, but at the same time it has many different monitoring functions. What is very important about this device is it is wirelessly powered and can send high-quality data about the human body to a computer, in real time.”

The researchers conducted a side-by-side comparison with traditional EKG and EEG monitors and found the wireless patch performed equally to conventional sensors and were significantly more comfortable for patients. This distinction is important for long-term monitoring, for patients with fragile skin, or for situations that depend on the patient’s ability to move and behave naturally, according to the UIUC news release.

Skin-mounted devices could give individuals interested in fitness tracking a more complete and accurate picture of their activity level. The multi-university research team hopes that their integrated sensing systems will not only monitor health, but could also help identify health problems before the patient may be aware. For example, John A. Rogers, who co-led the study, says data analysis could detect motions associated with Parkinson’s disease at its onset.

Huang states, “The application of stretchable electronics to medicine has a lot of potential. If we can continuously monitor our health with a comfortable, small device that attaches to our skin, it could be possible to catch health conditions before experiencing pain, discomfort and illness.”

Photo Appears Courtesy of John A. Rogers

[Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]