Multifunctional ‘smart bandage’ monitors physical signals

A team led by the University of California San Diego has built a stretchable electronic patch that can be worn on the skin like a bandage. The ‘smart bandage‘ can wirelessly monitor a variety of physical signals like respiration, eye movement or heart and brain activity.

Photo

The device can also be used to wirelessly control a robotic arm. “Our vision is to make 3D stretchable electronics that are as multifunctional and high-performing as today’s rigid electronics,” said senior author Sheng Xu, a professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The new device consists of four layers of interconnected stretchable, flexible circuit boards. Each layer is built on a silicone elastomer substrate patterned with what’s called an “island-bridge” design. This work overcomes a technological roadblock to building stretchable electronics in 3D. “The problem isn’t stacking the layers. It’s creating electrical connections between them so they can communicate with each other,” said Xu. These electrical connections, known as vertical interconnect accesses (VIAs), are essentially small conductive holes that go through different layers on a circuit. VIAs are traditionally made using lithography and etching. While these methods work fine on rigid electronic substrates, they don’t work on stretchable elastomers.

A user can stick the ‘smart bandage’ on different parts of the body to wirelessly monitor different electrical signals. When worn on the chest or stomach, it records heart signals like an electrocardiogram (ECG). On the forehead, it records brain signals like a mini EEG sensor, and when placed on the side of the head, it records eyeball movements. When worn on the forearm, it records muscle activity and can also be used to remotely control a robotic arm. The smart bandage also monitors respiration, skin temperature and body motion. “We didn’t have a specific end use for all these functions combined together. The point is that we can integrate all these different sensing capabilities on the same small bandage,” said co-first author Zhenlong Huang, who conducted this work as a visiting Ph.D. student in Xu’s research group.

The researchers did not sacrifice quality for quantity. “This device is like a ‘master of all trades.’ We picked high quality, robust subcomponents and developed a clever way to integrate all these into one stretchable device,” added co-first author Yang Li, a graduate student at UC San Diego in Xu’s research group.

So far, the device can last for more than six months without any drop in performance, stretchability or flexibility. It can communicate wirelessly with a smartphone or laptop up to 10 meters away. The device runs on a total of about 35.6 milliwatts, which is equivalent to the power from 7 laser pointers.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related articles

Smart ring detects COVID-19 early

Smart ring detects COVID-19 early

According to new research, the Oura smart ring is indeed suitable for detecting COVID-19 infection up to three days before symptoms appear.

Can ‘smart toilets’ be the next

Can ‘smart toilets’ be the next

Wearables are transforming the ability to monitor and improve health, but a decidedly low-tech commodity—the humble toilet—may have potential to outperform them all.

Wireless pliable micro-batteries power wearables

Wireless pliable micro-batteries power wearables

Pliable micro-batteries adapt to the specific material and deliver the power for sensors to collect measurement data from our bodies.

Smart wristband monitors heart rates and physical activity

Smart wristband monitors heart rates and physical activity

Engineers have created biosensor technology with a wireless connection to smartphones that will enable a new wave of personal health.

“Smart Hospital Beds” to prevent falls

“Smart Hospital Beds” to prevent falls

5G smart beds, a prototype innovation to prevent elderly patients from falls in both hospitals and homes was showcased recently.

Patching up your ehealth

Patching up your ehealth

Researchers have developed ultrathin self-powered health patches that can monitor a user's pulse and blood pressure, which may lead to new flexible motion-based energy harvesting devices.

Hybrid materials advance wearable devices

Hybrid materials advance wearable devices

We spoke to wearables and medical device expert Professor John Rogers about the benefits, challenges, trends and innovation within the sector.

Sensor warns of impending COVID-19 cytokine storm

Sensor warns of impending COVID-19 cytokine storm

Scientists report preliminary results on a sweat sensor that acts as an early warning system for an impending cytokine storm, which could help doctors more effectively treat patients.

Wearable sensors to track Parkinson's symptoms

Wearable sensors to track Parkinson's symptoms

Scientists have developed algorithms that, combined with wearable sensors, could help clinicians to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Popular articles

Subscribe to Newsletter