Sensors that are printed on the skin

It was to be expected, and the Cambridge scientists knew it. For this reason, they developed sensors that are printed on the skin. They are sensors that can be printed on biological surfaces. For example, a finger or a flower petal.

The method is inspired by spider silk, which can adapt and adhere to a variety of surfaces. These “spider silks” also incorporate bioelectronics. The fibers are 50 times smaller than a human hair. They are so light they can be printed on the spongy seed of a dandelion without collapsing its structure. When printed on human skin, the fiber sensors adapt to the skin. They expose sweat pores, so the user does not detect their presence. They could be used as continuous health monitors.

Sensors that are printed on the skin are the future.
Sensors that are printed on the skin are the future.


This method could be used in a variety of fields. From healthcare and virtual reality to e-textiles and environmental monitoring. The results are published in the journal Nature Electronics.

Human skin is remarkably sensitive. Augmenting it with electronic sensors would transform the way we interact with the world around us. They can be used for continuous health monitoring. Or improve the feeling of “reality” in games or virtual reality applications.

“The interface between the device and the surface is vital.” This was stated in a statement by Professor Yan Yan Shery Huang of the Cambridge Department of Engineering. «We are looking for bioelectronics that are completely imperceptible to the user. “It does not interfere in any way with the way the user interacts with the world.”

They are so light that they can be printed on plants such as dandelions.
They are so light that they can be printed on plants such as dandelions.

Living sensors

3D printing is another potential route for bioelectronics. It generates less waste than other production methods, but leads to thicker devices. They can interfere with normal behavior. The Cambridge-led team has developed a new way of manufacturing high-performance bioelectronics. His technique is partly inspired by spiders. They create sophisticated and strong network structures adapted to their environment, using a minimum of material.

The fibers become living surfaces. Even in microstructures such as fingerprints. They have high quality sensor performance and at the same time were imperceptible to the host. Sensors that are printed on the skin have multiple advantages. The sensors developed by Cambridge can be manufactured anywhere. They use a small fraction of the power that normal sensors require.

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