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Trending science: Skin-like patch to monitor your health

Researchers have developed a skin-like device that can be worn throughout the day for around-the-clock health monitoring.

The ultrathin, compliant skin-like, or epidermal, photonic device is placed on the skin to monitor blood flow and can reveal changes in heart health. The five-centimetre-square patch is made up of 3 600 tiny ‘thermochromic’ liquid crystal devices that change colour with the temperature. Science magazine reports that imaging sensors and computer algorithms translate the pattern of colors into a temperature profile, and a health report. It adds, ‘Because the patches can be worn 24/7, they could offer at-risk patients around-the-clock health monitoring.’ Developed by Northwestern University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the device will be able to alert wearers if they are having cardiovascular trouble or even if it’s simply time to put on some skin moisturiser, according to Science Daily. Meanwhile, Medical Daily reports that the patch is flexible, durable, and able to be worn around-the-clock — qualities, the researchers argue, which make it ideal for wireless health monitoring. Northwestern's Yonggang Huang, one of the senior researchers on the team, spoke to Science Daily about the research. ‘Our device is mechanically invisible - it is ultrathin and comfortable - much like skin itself … One can imagine cosmetics companies being interested in the ability to measure skin's dryness in a portable and non-intrusive way. This is the first device of its kind.’ Yihui Zhang, co-first author of the study and research assistant professor at Northwestern, added, ‘The device is very practical - when your skin is stretched, compressed or twisted, the device stretches, compresses or twists right along with it.’ The 3 600 liquid crystals provide sub-millimetre spatial resolution that is comparable to the infrared technology currently used in hospitals. However, as Science Daily reports, the new device offers lower costs and improved portability. Details of the research can be found in the paper ‘Epidermal Photonic Devices for Quantitative Imaging of Temperature and Thermal Transport Characteristics of the Skin’ which was published on Nature Communications last week. The patch is still in the lab-testing phase. According to Medical Daily, more research needs to be done to hone the particulars, such as how the user can easily obtain the relevant data. Science Daily notes that the technology and its relevance to basic medicine have been demonstrated in this study but cautions that additional testing is needed before the device can be put to use. For more information, please visit:


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