There’s a lot of research being done right now in the field of wearable electronics. We’re already seeing this in the form of gadgets such as health monitoring wristbands, smartwatches, and sensors built into clothing. But the ultimate wearable device is one where you can forget it is being worn, and no one knows you are wearing it.
A research team at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has taken a big step towards delivering just that this month. They’ve announced a new electronic skin that’s almost completely transparent, but just as importantly, capable of dealing with the stresses of being stretched.
The skin is engineered using hybrid structures of graphene-metal nanotrough networks. The graphene electrodes are transparent, and through combining with metal fibers allows them to continue functioning when stretched. That’s important considering how much natural movement occurs when attached to an area of skin on our body.
Electronic skin is not a new idea, but it is still in its infancy. This UNIST development is thought to be the first to combine both the ability to stress the skin without damage as well as being transparent. As the video below demonstrates, it just looks like a clear sheet of thin plastic stuck to the skin and remains in place as the hand is flexed and even squeezed with fingers.
Such durable sensors could be attached to any area of our body without standing out or accidentally being detached. They could then go to work monitoring specific aspects of our health including blood pressure, heartbeat, even brain activity.