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South Koreans may soon be able to carry a device inside their body in the form of a specially detailed tattoo that automatically alerts them to potential health problems, if a scientific team project pays off.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, southwest of Seoul, have developed an electronic tattoo ink made of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes that act as a bioelectrode.
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Connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) or other biosensor, it can send a reading of a patient’s heart rate and other vital signs such as glucose and lactate to the monitor.
The researchers eventually aim to be able to do without biosensors.
“In the future, what we hope to do is connect a wireless chip built into this ink, so we can communicate, or we can send a signal back and forth between our bodies to an external device,” said project leader Steve Park. Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.
These screens could theoretically be placed anywhere, including patients’ homes.
The ink is non-gaseous and made of particles based on gallium, a soft silvery metal also used in semiconductors or in thermometers. Carbon nanotubes decorated with platinum help conduct electricity while providing durability.
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“When it is applied to the skin, even with a tattoo rubbing in, it cannot be removed, which is not possible with liquid metal only,” Park said.