South Korea’s nanotech tattoo to monitor health

If a research team’s project is successful, South Koreans may soon be able to carry a device inside their own bodies in the form of a custom tattoo that instantly notifies them to potential health risks.

A bioelectrode-like electronic tattoo ink consisting of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes has been produced by scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, southwest of Seoul.

It can provide a readout of a patient’s heart rate and other vital signs, such as glucose and lactate, to a monitor when connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) device or other biosensor.

In the long run, the researchers hope to do away with biosensors.

According to project leader and professor of materials science and engineering Steve Park, “in the future, what we plan to do is attach a wireless chip integrated with this ink, so that we can communicate, or may send signal back and forth between our body and an external device.”

Theoretically, these monitors might be placed anywhere, including in patients’ homes.

The non-invasive ink is formed of gallium-based particles, a malleable silvery metal also utilized in semiconductors and thermometers. Carbon nanotubes with platinum decorations are durable and aid with electrical conductivity.

When it is put to the skin, the tattoo remains after vigorous rubbing, which is impossible with merely liquid metal, according to Park.

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