Smart Skin Named To Science News Of The Year List

An ultrathin electronic patch with the mechanics of skin applied to the wrist.
An ultrathin electronic patch with the mechanics of skin applied to the wrist.

Scientists have created an ultrathin electronic device that puckers, stretches, wrinkles and bends just like human skin. This flexible patch could one day allow the human body to enter the digital world, enabling Internet browsing without the mouse or communication without words. The patch’s electronics form a flexible net of wavy S-shaped curves that can stretch in any direction and still work. Two supple polymer sheets sandwich the business layer of the gadget and the whole thing sits on a film that sticks to skin.

Developed as less obtrusive health monitors, versions of the device have been used to track vital signs. In a more lighthearted demonstration, the patch analyzed a person’s throat muscles as directions were spoken to move a cursor in a computer game. Mixing and matching electronic components could lead to a variety of jobs, says study coauthor John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Creative folks out there will think of things we haven’t even contemplated.”