Body area sensor network debuts with direct-to-skin application
An on-body printed health sensor network that is applied without heat and could deliver more precise biometrics has been demonstrated by a large research team from China and the United States.
The network consisted of on-body sensors to monitor physiological signals and flexible printed circuit boards for signal conditioning and wireless transmission. The boards are printed at room temperature on paper or fabric; the rest of the network’s metal nanoparticle components are applied directly to skin.
Images in the team’s paper show a bold wiring pattern on the back of a woman’s wrist and hand that looks like a reflective gold henna decoration.
Eighteen researchers are from the Harbin Institute of Technology and the Beijing Institute of Technology, both in China; and Pennsylvania State University.
Their primary advance is in printing on skin with materials at room temperatures. Past efforts were stymied by sintering processes that heat the printing materials to 500 degrees as they were applied. Success has been had printing to a substrate that was later attached to skin.
A novel sintering aid layer between the components and the skin reduces the application temperature. The layer consists of a common water-soluble polymer, polyvinyl alcohol paste and nano-additives in water.
In a release about the innovation, Penn State makes the point that polyvinyl alcohol is safe for use on skin, although a number of health and beauty sites online caution that their use can cause skin irritation and dryness.
The school says that the researchers are working on a version of their device capable of monitoring physiological and biometric data for COVID-19 symptoms.