A team of researchers, led by Professor Takao Someya and Dr. Tomoyuki Yokota, at the University of Tokyo published a new study called Ultra flexible organic photonic skin, on April 15, which stated the development and release of the newest breakthrough in biomedical technology, a new type of high-quality electronic skin, or e-skin, that turns the body into a screen, displaying important health information.

The ultimate goal of this device is to be a reflective pulse oximeter, which means that it will unobtrusively measure people’s pulse and blood oxygen concentrations. The data can be laid over actual skin directly on the body. This can help doctors and nurses to monitor a patient’s condition, or help athletes to keep track of their energy and progress.

The e-skin display can measure blood oxygen levels and pulse rates. Credit: Techinsider.io

This project is aimed to integrate electronic devices with the human body for the improvement or restoration of body function for biomedical applications.

The device, including the substrate and encapsulation layer, is only 3 micrometer (μm) thick, which is one order of magnitude thinner than the epidermal layer of human skin. It is made with a material that looks like a plastic wrap, alternating layers of inorganic and organic material, such as Silicon Oxynitride (inorganic) and Parylene (organic). This layering helps to prevent oxygen and water vapor from passing into the skin, prolonging the shell life of the device from just a few hours to about several days. This is a problem that occurred on previous e-skin prototypes, which often only last for a few hours once exposed to the body and air, but now it is fixed.

The e-skin integrates highly efficient polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs) and organic photodetectors (OPDs), to allow multiple electronic functionalities such as sensing and displaying on the human skin. Also, it has an air-stable and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, ideal for a wide range of biomedical applications.

Because of the innovative creations that have been done throughout the recent years for health purposes, this researchers thought it was necessary to create a very thin wearable device that could be, at the same time, comfortable for people, so it can have the least impact on the part of the body they are attached to.

The bright display of the device uses less power compared to other e-skins developed in the past, which is very helpful since, for industrial applications, it is important to fabricate wearable devices using processing methods that maximize throughput and minimize cost.

“What would the world be like if we had displays that could adhere to our bodies and even show our emotions or level of stress or unease?” Professor Someya said. “In addition to not having to carry a device with us at all times, they might enhance the way we interact with those around us or add a whole new dimension to how we communicate.”

Source: Science Advances