Flexible printed circuit boards continue to find new and fascinating applications. How did your phone know that your blood sugar levels were getting dangerously low? It was because of the electronic tattoo printed on your arm that works from a micro flex circuit. In fact, you can pull up an app on your phone and check to see your heart rate, temperature, and estimated calorie burn, all being monitored by your tattoo.
Electronic tattoos aren’t quite a reality yet, but they may not be too far away. Researchers are working hard to develop materials that are small enough and – importantly – flexible enough to bend and shift effortlessly on the skin. When electronic tattoos become a reality, they will be able to provide consumers and their medical professionals with reams of critical information.
The Challenge of Electronic Tattoos
We are already living in a world where flexible printed circuit boards are bringing wearable technology into the mainstream. These days, shirts, pants, and sport bras can measure heartrates, sweat, body temperature and more. Electronic tattoos are the next frontier.
The biggest challenges researchers face are creating components small enough to be worn effortlessly on the skin and finding circuits that can maintain their connections even when the skin shifts and stretches.
Improvements to Electronic Tattoos
Two research facilities have been making great strides in developing electronic tattoos. Waseda University in Japan has developed a special flexible polymer that is 50 times more flexible than previous polymer nanosheets. Circuits can be printed into the material after it has been attached to the skin.
On the other side of the world, researchers at MIT are creating conductive traces using gold foil that are placed on a flexible vinyl material. These tattoos can read inputs from the wearer’s body as well as change color to communicate with the wearer. They can even be used to let the wearer control nearby connected devices.
While you might not be able to head over to your local tattoo parlor and get an electronic tattoo added to your body today, they may not be too far off into the future. Contact us to see how Flexible printed circuit boards can help you with your next project.