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Someya Laboratory

This Ultrathin Display Is Basically A Temporary Medical Tattoo

Researchers at the University of Tokyo developed an ultrathin display that has skin-like flexibility but still protects sensitive components.

By Mikah Sargent | April 15, 2016

Checking your blood pressure or monitoring your heart rate could one day be as simple as applying a temporary tattoo.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have created a protective material for electronic skin displays that's less than 2 micrometers thick. That's the equivalent of two human red blood cells, stacked.

Electronic skin (e-skin) displays are exactly what they sound like: super-thin displays — likely with embedded medical sensors — placed right on the skin.

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But there's a very delicate balance to strike when it comes to the thickness of so-called e-skin: Too thin, and moisture in the air can ruin the LED display; too thick, and you've suddenly got what amounts to a smartphone screen protector taped to your body.

Researchers were able to find that balance by mixing ceramics and polymers to create a material that bends and flexes along with a person's skin but still keeps out oxygen and water.

And now that they've got that figured out, researchers are looking at other (arguably cooler) ways to use the technology.

One of the researchers posed the question: "What would the world be like if we had displays that could adhere to our bodies and even show our emotions or level of stress or unease? ... They might enhance the way we interact with those around us or add a whole new dimension to how we communicate."

This video includes images from Lenore Edman / CC BY 2.0 and Jyri Engestrom / CC BY 2.0.

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