Stretchtronics Files a Patent for “e-tattoo”: The Health Tracker of the Future

Brain_Stretchtronics 

Aníbal Almeida  Carmel Majidi Mahmoud Tavakoli 

The ERI Stretchtronics research group has filed a Joint US Patent for a novel fabrication method for electronic tattoos. As envisioned by the researchers, e-tattoos are flexible and stretchable small circuits, made wearable when embedded on flexible substances, such as rubber. They can monitor biological signals and transmit them to computers wirelessly. This concept is similar to an activity tracker, but one that is “glued” on the skin of the patient, or even, attached to an internal organ and used to track biological functions, such as blood-sugar levels, for example.

“An e-tattoo is a very thin and soft electronic device, that can be attached to the skin or other organs, following the dynamic morphology of the organ”, clarifies Mahmoud Tavakoli, one of the researchers of Stretchtronics. Tavakoli goes on to explain how this invention can be useful: “For instance, an e-tattoo applied over the skin can monitor the heart rate of patients for several days after a heart surgery. Such procedure was not previously possible, because rigid and bulky electronics could not be applied over the soft tissue.”

The provisional patent request was submitted by the Stretchtronics researcher team, hosted between the Institute of Systems and Robotics at University of Coimbra, and the Soft Materials Lab of Carnegie Mellon University.

The Entrepreneurial Research Initiative Stretchtronics, led by Professor Aníbal de Almeida, of University of Coimbra and Professor Carmel Majidi, from CMU, intends to investigate the methods for fabrication of soft and stretchable Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and at the same time, develop wearable systems with a good market potential. Embedding electronics on low-cost and flexible substrates holds promise for wearable devices such as health monitoring suits, fitness trackers and entertaining industry, as well as other fields such as soft antennas, soft batteries, soft sensors, mobile robotics, grasping mechanisms, and more.

The e-tattoo has many applications and has great potential in many areas, not just the medical field. But that is where this innovation is expected to make the biggest difference: "This invention opens the door for various medical applications. An e-tattoo applied directly over the heart or brain tissue can be used for high resolution measurement of electrical signals. This has a direct application on helping neurological patients to regain some of their abilities, such as walking", Tavakoli details.

Patents are crucial for technological innovation in the context where they apply. They can be used to generate revenues (from licences), encourage synergistic partnerships, or to create a market advantage and be the basis for productive activities. As such they create strong incentives for innovation in market-based economies. An alternative approach would be to keep inventions confidential, limiting public access to crucial technology advances. However, this would have advantages and disadvantages for both inventors and for society as a whole, which can benefit from the inventions.

 

December 2017

 

More information available at:

STRETCHTRONICS: Soft and Stretchable Mechatronics for Wearable Devices: Fabrication, Implementation and Applications