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South Korea creates nanotech tattoo for health monitoring

Water sprays on arm are seen with an electronic tattoo (e-tattoo) for the wettability test at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, South Korea, July 26, 2022. Photo: Reuters

South Koreans may soon be able to carry a device inside their bodies in the form of a custom tattoo that instantly notifies them of potential health risks, if a research team’s project is successful.

A bioelectrode-like electronic tattoo ink consisting of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes has been produced by scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, southwest of Seoul, Reuters reports.

Hooked up to an electrocardiogram (ECG) device or other biosensor, it can send a readout of a patient’s heart rate and other vital signs such glucose and lactate to a monitor.

Materials Science & Engineering professor, Steve Park, at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), demonstrates an electronic tattoo (e-tattoo) on his arm connected with an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring system in Daejeon, South Korea, July 26, 2022. Photo: Reuters

“In the future, what we hope to do is connect a wireless chip integrated with this ink, so that we can communicate, or we can send signal back and forth between our body to an external device,” the project leader Steve Park, a materials science and engineering professor said.

Theoretically, these monitors might be placed anywhere, including in patients’ homes.

The ink is non-invasive and made from particles based on gallium, a soft, silvery metal also used in semiconductors or in thermometers. Platinum-decorated carbon nanotubes help conduct electricity while providing durability.

“When it is applied to the skin, even with rubbing the tattoo doesn’t come off, which is not possible with just liquid metal,” Park said.

Writing by Muzha Kucha