PerspectiveMaterials Science

An Electronic Second Skin

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Science  12 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6044, pp. 830-831
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209094

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In clinical health monitoring, the diagnostic machines that perform physiological measurement and stimulation through skin are connected to patients with wires and cables. Such complicated wiring can be inconvenient and distressing for both patients and physicians. For example, a patient who may have heart disease is usually required to wear a bulky monitor for a prolonged period (typically a month) in order to capture the abnormal yet rare cardiac events. The current best electrodes are gel-coated adhesive pads. Many people, particularly those who have sensitive skins, will develop a rash, and the electrode locations have to be constantly moved around, interrupting monitoring. Clinical physicians strongly desire more compact and even wireless health monitoring devices. An electronic skin recently developed by Kim et al. (1), reported on page 838 in this issue, will help solve these problems and allow monitoring to be simpler, more reliable, and uninterrupted. These devices were made through “transfer printing” fabrication processes that create flexible versions of high-performance semiconductors that are brittle as bulk materials.