January 31st, 2012
Econintersect: Researchers at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, have been working to develop a flexible electronic circuitry structure that is thinner than a human hair. The applications that John Rogers (Illinois) and Yonggang Huang (Northwestern) envision for their technology include monitoring brain functions and heart activity. They even foresee electronic regulation of such things as seizures and arrhythmias using skin applique devises that look like faint tattoos. (Click on picture for larger image.)
From R&D Magazine:
"We're trying to bridge that gap, from silicon, wafer-based electronics to biological, 'tissue-like' electronics, to really blur the distinction between electronics and the body," says materials scientist John Rogers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), he's developing elastic electronics. The innovation builds upon years of collaboration between Rogers and Northwestern University engineer Yonggang Huang, who had earlier partnered with Rogers to develop flexible electronics for hemispherical camera sensors and other devices that conform to complex shapes.
This is circuitry with a real twist that's able to monitor and deliver electrical impulses into living tissue. Elastic electronics are made of tiny, wavy silicon structures containing circuits that are thinner than a human hair, and bend and stretch with the body. "As the skin moves and deforms, the circuit can follow those deformations in a completely noninvasive way," says Rogers. He hopes elastic electronics will open a door to a whole range of what he calls "bio-integrated" medical devices.
The pair expect applications may be as wide ranging as pacemaker functions for the heart, detecting abnormal brain signals that are precursors to seizures and injecting preventative currents, monitoring and regulating primary functions in premature babies and other neurological monitoring and regulation activities.
Source: R&D Magazine