It’s the shape of things to come tomorrow. What if your Band-Aid could sense temperature, light up and deliver medicine to the skin? Making tech and medicine meet, a team of researchers has come up with the Band-Aid of the future. MIT engineers have designed a sticky, stretchy, gel-like material that can incorporate temperature sensors, LED lights, and other electronics, as well as tiny, drug-delivering reservoirs and channels.
The “smart wound dressing” releases medicine in response to changes in skin temperature and can be designed to light up if, say, medicine is running low. When the dressing is applied to a highly flexible area, such as the elbow or knee, it stretches with the body, keeping the embedded electronics functional and intact.
Watch: Engineering a Smart Bandaid
The key to the design is a hydrogel matrix designed by Xuanhe Zhao. The hydrogel is a rubbery material, mostly composed of water, designed to bond strongly to surfaces such as gold, titanium, aluminum, silicon, glass, and ceramic. In the new paper, the team reports embedding various electronics within the hydrogel, such as conductive wires, semiconductor chips, LED lights, and temperature sensors.
Zhao says electronics coated in hydrogel may be used not just on the surface of the skin but also inside the body, for example as implanted, biocompatible glucose sensors, or even soft, compliant neural probes. The study is published in the journal Advanced Materials.