South Korea is developing an electronic tattoo that can warn patients of possible health problems

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South Koreans they will soon be able to wear the device inside their bodies in the form of a custom-made tattoo that automatically alerts them to potential health problems if the science team’s project bears fruit.

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in the city of Daejeon, southwest of Seoul, have developed an electronic tattoo ink made from liquid metal and carbon nanotubes that function as a bioelectrode.

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Connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) device or other biosensor, it can send data about a patient’s heart rate and other vital signs such as glucose and lactate levels to a monitor.

Ultimately, researchers are looking to abandon biosensors.

A wettability test of South Korea's new electronic tattoo is held at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, South Korea, July 26, 2022.

A wettability test of South Korea’s new electronic tattoo is held at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, South Korea, July 26, 2022.
(REUTERS/Minoo Pak)

“In the future, we hope to connect a wireless chip integrated with this ink so that we can communicate or send a signal between our body and back to an external device,” said project leader Steve Park, professor of materials science and engineering.

Such monitors could theoretically be located anywhere, including in patients’ homes.

The ink is non-invasive and made from particles based on gallium, a soft silvery metal that is also used in semiconductors or in thermometers. Platinum-adorned carbon nanotubes help conduct electricity, providing durability.

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“When it is applied to the skin, even when rubbed, the tattoo does not wear off, which is not possible with liquid metal only,” Park said.