Electronic “tattoos” monitor temperature

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

electronic tattoo
The thermometer is completely flexible and tracks body temperature all day

You know, the last time I had my temperature taken was during a check-up with my doctor. She stuck a thin strip of paper under my tongue and, a minute later, knew how hot my body was. Well, that little paper is about as advanced as thermometers get. While it’s definitely a step up from placing the back of a hand on a warm forehead, technology hasn’t advanced all that much… until now. Step right up and strap on this new wearable thermometer invented by John Rodgers, a University of Illinois researcher.

The device is no more than an inch wide, and it has awesome tiny gold wires running along its surface. The thermometer is about 50 microns thin, or roughly half the thickness of a human hair! In order to be placed on the body, all a person has to do is add a bit of water-soluble glue and stick it on, just like a cool temporary tattoo. Don’t let the high-tech designs fool you though; the device was made for function, not fashion. “Normally on temperature, I’d think that’s not very interesting,” said Rogers. “It turns out, measuring skin temperature, let’s say to a tenth of a degree… says something very meaningful about your physiological status and health.”

The device is so incredibly accurate that it can measure temperatures down to two thousandths of a degree. This accuracy allows the thermometer to keep track of heat in the bloodstream, as well as subtle changes in the size of a person’s veins. “That can say important things about cardiovascular health,” says Rogers. Even though it only costs pennies on the dollar to create, the thermometer is better at reading temperatures than quarter-million dollar infrared cameras!

It took Rogers about two years to build the tiny sensor, and he’s already been approached by government agencies who’ve been searching for a way to track body temperature efficiently. Though this current sensor can only be used on the skin, Rogers and his research team are working on ways to place it inside the body, such as on the wall of a heart! “There are lots of other places on the body where you might want to be able to do those kind of measurements,” Rogers says. “Skin is a starting point.”

Images and video courtesy of Data Tattoo.