Research led by Deji Akinwande and Nanshu Lu at the University of Texas at Austin has demonstrated tattoo-like epidermal sensors as an emerging class of truly wearable electronics, owing to their thinness and softness.
While most wearable electronics are based on thin metal films, a silicon membrane, or nanoparticle-based printable inks, the researchers reported sub-micrometer thick, multimodal electronic tattoo sensors that are made of graphene.
The graphene electronic tattoo (GET) is designed as filamentary serpentines and fabricated by a cost- and time-effective "wet transfer, dry patterning" method. It has a total thickness of 463 ± 30 nm, an optical transparency of ∼85%, and a stretchability of more than 40%. The GET can be directly laminated on human skin just like a temporary tattoo and can fully conform to the microscopic morphology of the surface of skin via just van der Waals forces.
The open-mesh structure of the GET makes it breathable and its stiffness negligible. A bare GET is able to stay attached to skin for several hours without fracture or delamination. With liquid bandage coverage, a GET may stay functional on the skin for up to several days. As a dry electrode, GET-skin interface impedance is on par with medically used silver/silver-chloride (Ag/AgCl) gel electrodes, while offering superior comfort, mobility, and reliability. GET has been successfully applied to measure electrocardiogram (ECG), electromyogram (EMG), electroencephalogram (EEG), skin temperature, and skin hydration.