ENGINEERING NEWS

Stretchable, Tattoo-like Health Monitor Featured in The Wall Street Journal

Thin medical device offers traditional medical readings with greater comfort

In the near future, bulky medical devices transported on carts and powered with electrical outlets could be obsolete. The new face of health electronics is small, stretchy, and wearable. 

Yonggang HuangResembling a temporary tattoo, an innovative new health monitor created by Yonggang Huang, Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been featured in The Wall Street Journal.

Huang, who worked with collaborator John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, created the health monitor using standard chip-based electronics and a thin, microfluidic base. Connecting the device’s sensors were an array of wires strategically folded like origami so the patch could remain malleable after applied to human skin. 

When tested against traditional EKG and EEG monitors, the device was found to provide comparable data related to heart and brain activity, respectively, while being more comfortable and unobtrusive. More importantly, the device’s construction opens the door to beneficial long-term monitoring that patients can undergo even after they leave the doctor’s office.    

"Right now, people feel sick and they go to the hospital to get everything checked, but those tests are bulky and you can't take them home," said Huang. "We want to make these devices as flexible and soft as human skin so they can be put on the skin and worn like a child's tattoo."

Read The Wall Street Journal’s story on Huang’s research.