South Koreans may soon be able to carry a device inside their own bodies in the form of a bespoke tattoo that automatically alerts them to potential health problems if a science team’s project is successful.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, southwest of Seoul, have developed an electronic tattoo ink that functions as a bioelectrode and is made of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes.
It can send 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.
The researchers hope to eventually eliminate the need for biosensors.
“In the future, what we hope to do is connect a wireless chip integrated with this ink, so that we can communicate, or we can send signal back and forth between our body to an external device,” said project leader Steve Park, a materials science and engineering professor.
In theory, such monitors could be placed anywhere, including patients’ homes.
The ink is non-invasive and made of gallium particles, a soft, silvery metal also used in semiconductors and thermometers. Platinum-decorated carbon nanotubes aid in the conductivity of electricity while also providing durability.
“When it is applied to the skin, the tattoo does not come off even with rubbing, which is not possible with just liquid metal,” Park explained.