Current Affairs Analysis: Electronic Skin
Scientists have developed a new technology they believe will be revolutionary in the medical field. They have created an ultra-thin electronic device that attaches to the skin like a temporary tattoo and measures heart rate and other vital signs. The new technology is exciting because it does the same job as the machines used in current hospital monitoring, but without the bulk and electrodes. The complicated, bulky wiring involved in current hospital monitoring can be inconvenient and distressing for both patients and doctors. For example, a patient with heart disease is usually required to wear a large, inconvenient monitor for a month or more in order to capture abnormal but rare cardiac events.
Applied just like a temporary tattoo, the device sticks to the patient’s skin. The device can bend, wrinkle, and stretch without being damaged. The best electrodes on the market today for these monitors are gel-coated adhesive pads. Many people develop a rash from the adhesive. The new electronic skin sits on a layer of rubbery polyester engineered to have mechanical properties well matched to those of natural skin. The new electrode is safe for patients’ with sensitive skin. The middle layer of the device is made of the metal, semiconductor, and insulator components needed for sensors, electronics, and power supply. The design has all of the necessary components, in an ultra-thin layer. The device could also potentially be used as an electronic bandage. The “temporary tattoo” can be used to speed up healing in wounds, burns, and other skin conditions. It could even provide touch sense to prosthetic devices such as artificial legs or arms. The researchers tested the electronic skin on participants and showed that the device works for up to 24 hours or more and that it does not irritate skin on the arm, neck, forehead, cheek, or chin. The results suggest that electronic skins could one day replace conventional hospital...
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