Breathable, Wearable Electronics on Skin for Long-Term Health Monitoring

A hypoallergenic electronic sensor can be worn on the skin continuously for a week without discomfort, and is so light and thin that users forget they even have it on, says a Japanese group of scientists. The elastic electrode constructed of breathable nanoscale meshes holds promise for the development of noninvasive e-skin devices that can monitor a person's health continuously over a long period.

Wearable electronics that monitor heart rate and other vital health signals have made headway in recent years, with next-generation gadgets employing lightweight, highly elastic materials attached directly onto the skin for more sensitive, precise measurements. However, although the ultrathin films and rubber sheets used in these devices adhere and conform well to the skin, their lack of breathability is deemed unsafe for long-term use: dermatological tests show the fine, stretchable materials prevent sweating and block airflow around the skin, causing irritation and inflammation, which ultimately could lead to lasting physiological and psychological effects.

"We learned that devices that can be worn for a week or longer for continuous monitoring were needed for practical use in medical and sports applications," says Professor Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering whose research group had previously developed an on-skin patch that measured oxygen in blood.

In the current research, the group developed an electrode constructed from nanoscale meshes containing a water-soluble polymer, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), and a gold layer - materials considered safe and biologically compatible with the body. The device can be applied by spraying a tiny amount of water, which dissolves the PVA nanofibers and allows it to stick easily to the skin - it conformed seamlessly to curvilinear surfaces of human skin, such as sweat pores and the ridges of an index finger's fingerprint pattern.

The researchers next conducted a skin patch test on 20 subjects and detected no inflammation on the participants' skin after they had worn the device for a week. The group also evaluated the permeability, with water vapor, of the nanomesh conductor - along with those of other substrates like ultrathin plastic foil and a thin rubber sheet - and found that its porous mesh structure exhibited superior gas permeability compared to that of the other materials.

Furthermore, the scientists proved the device's mechanical durability through repeated bending and stretching, exceeding 10,000 times, of a conductor attached on the forefinger; they also established its reliability as an electrode for electromyogram recordings when its readings of the electrical activity of muscles were comparable to those obtained through conventional gel electrodes.

"It will become possible to monitor patients' vital signs without causing any stress or discomfort," says Someya about the future implications of the team's research. In addition to nursing care and medical applications, the new device promises to enable continuous, precise monitoring of athletes' physiological signals and bodily motion without impeding their training or performance.

Akihito Miyamoto, Sungwon Lee, Nawalage Florence Cooray, Sunghoon Lee, Mami Mori, Naoji Matsuhisa, Hanbit Jin, Leona Yoda, Tomoyuki Yokota, Akira Itoh, Masaki Sekino, Hiroshi Kawasaki, Tamotsu Ebihara, Masayuki Amagai, Takao Someya.
Inflammation-free, gas-permeable, lightweight, stretchable on-skin electronics with nanomeshes.
Nature Nanotechnology (2017), doi: 10.1038/nnano.2017.125.

Most Popular Now

Top 20 Breaking eHealth News of 2017

eHealthNews.eu is proud to announce the top 20 most popular eHealth News from 2017. Have a wonderful 2018 new(s) year filled with health, happiness, and spectacular success!

Smartphone Health Apps Miss Some Daily A…

If you use your smartphone to monitor your physical activity, you're probably more active than it suggests. A new UBC study finds that the iPhone's built-in pedometer missed about 1,340...

Open Call SC1-DTH-08-2018: Prototyping a…

Large amounts of valuable health data are generated and collected during and between citizens' medical examinations across Europe. However, opportunities to reuse these data for research and better healthcare are...

conhIT Newcomer Award 2018: The Search i…

17 - 19 April 2018, Berlin, Germany. Be it robotics experts or software developers for 'paper-free hospitals', the digitisation of the healthcare system means that medical IT specialists are in short...

Ophthalmologists Increasingly Dissatisfi…

Ophthalmologists' use of electronic health records (EHR) systems for storing and accessing patients' medical histories more than doubled between 2006 and 2016, while their perceptions of financial and clinical productivity...

Philips and American Well form global pa…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, and American Well™, the leading U.S. telehealth provider that connects millions of consumers with care professionals through video...

No Cash, No Staff: How can the NHS Affor…

Opinion Article by Leesa Ewing, Commercial Director, IMS MAXIMS. Ongoing news of an NHS 'cash flow crisis' has continued to appear in the media in recent weeks, despite new funding pledges...

Researchers Develop a Remote-Controlled …

A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells...

Scientists Design Bacteria to Reflect 'S…

In the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, a submarine is shrunken down and injected into a scientist's body to repair a blood clot in his brain. While the movie...