Soft Microfluidic Assemblies of Sensors, Circuits, and Radios for the Skin

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Science  04 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6179, pp. 70-74
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250169

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Wearable Monitors

Advances in microelectronics have yielded high-quality devices that allow for intensive signal collection or transmission. S. Xu et al. (p. 70) show how to make a soft wearable system that is constructed like a stretchable circuit board, where the electronic components are bridged electrically by thin, meandering conducting traces that float in a highly visco-elastic polymer. A complete soft circuit capable of multisignal physiological sensing on skin was created, with potential for use in health monitoring or neonatal care.


When mounted on the skin, modern sensors, circuits, radios, and power supply systems have the potential to provide clinical-quality health monitoring capabilities for continuous use, beyond the confines of traditional hospital or laboratory facilities. The most well-developed component technologies are, however, broadly available only in hard, planar formats. As a result, existing options in system design are unable to effectively accommodate integration with the soft, textured, curvilinear, and time-dynamic surfaces of the skin. Here, we describe experimental and theoretical approaches for using ideas in soft microfluidics, structured adhesive surfaces, and controlled mechanical buckling to achieve ultralow modulus, highly stretchable systems that incorporate assemblies of high-modulus, rigid, state-of-the-art functional elements. The outcome is a thin, conformable device technology that can softly laminate onto the surface of the skin to enable advanced, multifunctional operation for physiological monitoring in a wireless mode.

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