Researchers have designed a graphene-based tattoo that can be directly laminated onto the skin with water, similar to a temporary tattoo. But instead of featuring artistic or colorful designs, the new tattoo is nearly transparent. Its main attraction is that graphene’s unique electronic properties enable the tattoo to function as a wearable electronic device, with potential applications including biometric uses (such as measuring the electrical activity of the heart, brain, and muscles), as well as human-machine interactions.
The researchers, led by Deji Akinwande and Nanshu Lu at the University of Texas at Austin, have published a paper on the new graphene electronic tattoo in a recent issue of ACS Nano.
In some ways, the graphene electronic tattoo is similar to commercially available electronic devices for health and fitness tracking: both kinds of devices are capable of heart rate monitoring and bioimpedence (a measure of the body’s response to an electric current). But because the ultrathin graphene tattoos can fully conform to the skin, they offer medical-grade data quality, in contrast with the lower performance of the rigid electrode sensors mounted on bands and strapped to the wrist or chest. Due to the high-quality sensing, the researchers expect that the graphene tattoos may offer promising replacements for existing medical sensors, which are typically taped to the skin and require gel or paste to enable the electrodes to function.
“The graphene tattoo is a dry physiological sensor which, because of its thinness, forms an ultra-conformal contact to skin, resulting in increased signal fidelity,” coauthor Shideh Kabiri Ameri at the University of Texas at Austin told Phys.org. “Conformability results in less susceptibility to motion artifacts, which is one the biggest drawbacks of conventional dry sensors and electrodes for physiological measurements.”