Researchers at the U of I working on new type of medical monitor

May 7, 2014

An ultrathin, electronic patch with the mechanics of skin, applied to the wrist for EMG and other measurements.
Credit John Rogers / Illinois Public Radio/WILL
Researchers at the University of Illinois are currently working on flexible circuits that can adhere to the skin like a bandage. It would be a less intrusive, more comfortable way of monitoring things like temperature and motion in real time. Illinois Public Radio's Jason Croft has more. 

Picture yourself going into the hospital or doctor’s office. Instead of large or intrusive machines used to monitor your vital signs, a small patch embedded with circuits is attached to your skin. John Rogers is Professor of Material Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois.

"And the result is something that is really sort of almost biological … in its properties. It’s like a thin piece of skin or an ultra-thin piece of meat … it’s very floppy and soft to the touch you can stretch it back and forth almost like a rubber band," says Rogers.

Rogers is also part of a company created to explore the commercial aspects these flexible, wearable circuits. They are currently working with Reebok to create impact sensors for sports equipment to better understand the causes and effects of concussions.

"It’s a device that treads into a soft good…essentially a skull cap…and provides very precise, three-axis accelerometer and rotational sensing of the head during an impact one might suffer on the football field for example," says Rogers.

They are also finishing clinical trials on uses for skin care, wound healing, and even possibly detecting cancer. A report on these circuits was published in the April 4th edition of Science.