Researchers at the University of California-San Diego have developed a sensor that is applied to the skin like a temporary tattoo. Once in place, it monitors chemicals in the wearer’s sweat to gauge physical exertion.
This stick-on patch goes further than wearable electronics because it always you to monitor the amount of lactate in your system – the chemical responsible for muscle soreness and fatigue. Before now, the only way to collect this data was by collecting a blood sample using a pin prick. The patch will make for a much less invasive way to collect data on athletes in training.
The sensor is screen-printed onto the adhesive part and flexible enough to withstand the movement of intense exercise – it has to be, as the patch still needs to be taken to a lab after it’s been used for analysis.
Now that they know it works, the researchers are planning to make the tattoo’s electrical components smaller and improve how data is transmitted and processed. They also want to test it further on people who aren’t professional athletes – which is why they founded Electrozyme to help commercialize the product.
Other forms of temporary tattoo analysis have also been developed such as those that measure muscle and nerve activity, as well as one to detect speech. The technology continues to get smaller and more applicable, with sensors that can be printed directly on to the skin. They could quite easily be the next step in the of evolution of wearable electronics, or at the very least be incorporated in some way to make the technology more discreet.