The medical field is a fast growing field in the world of technology. Experts are continually working to move the medical field forward in ways that make caring for patients safer, more convenient; more thorough, and with precise accuracy. Without technology, the way we practice medicine would remain stagnant; instead, doctors are able to care for their patients in ways we never thought possible. Many times patients need specific types of care, testing or monitoring that before technical advances, were difficult, cumbersome or uncomfortable to attain.
Today, countless types of medical treatments and tests have significantly changed for the better which benefits both patients and doctors. One of the latest developments in the medical field are graphene tattoos, a medical revolution that allows doctors to have a connection with their patient’s health status, outside of a medical setting.
What is a graphene tattoo?
Graphene tattoos are temporary. They stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo would do but they are not made of the same material, and they serve a purpose as opposed to being skin art. Scientists have found a way to use a special material that is made of electronic components, stick it to the skin and get it to measure your vital signs: blood pressure, your body temperature, your heart rate and more. These are the same vital signs that you would have taken at a doctors’ office or in another medical setting, but with the graphene tattoo, you won’t have to go to a medical office to have this done. It is automatically monitoring your vitals as you wear it without you having to do anything or use anything; no thermometers, BP cuff, or other monitoring device. You won’t even know it’s there.
The graphene tattoo health sensor has proven to be a more accurate way of measuring multiple bodily functions. This information gives doctors more accurate readings which can aid them in getting faster results and answers that could possibly lead to speedier diagnoses for their patients. This also helps free up time for the patient, doctor and other healthcare providers in having to manually monitor or perform certain tests that the graphene tattoos will be able to anytime and anywhere the patient is, so long as the patient is wearing the tattoo.
Types of functions it can measure
Electrical signals from the heart, muscles, and the brain. It can also track the temperature of your skin and your hydration. It will also be used to detect nerve conduction and monitor blood glucose levels. The researchers are also hoping to develop the sensors for use in cosmetic care as well as to provide a more comfortable alternative to currently used medical equipment.
How are they more accurate?
Because graphene is ultra-thin, it is able to basically become “one” with the body to get more detailed results that other, bulky equipment might miss due to the non-conforming of the equipment up against the body. For instance, when you wear a halter monitor for monitoring the heart’s rhythms, movements of your body can cause the leads to shift or even come loose, which can give inaccurate readings. Graphene is so flush with the skin that it reads that body’s functions as if it is a part of the body. It can pick up faint fluctuations with the heart that a monitor or even EKG might miss. There are no air gaps between the device and the skin that can also cause a disruption in test results. There is simply, no impairment with getting accurate results.
When graphene is used on the leg, for instance, for nerve or muscle related testing, the sensor readouts and results or an electroencephalography EEG), or electromyography (EMG), are currently being used and will be used for future studies and will be incorporated into the development in next-generation prosthetic arms and legs for better functioning.
These temporary graphene tattoos are so flexible and bendable that you will never know you are wearing it. Scientists are calling it a fresh idea and as far as ingenuity, it is being recognized by leading scientists as one of the biggest medical breakthroughs of this decade. The graphene tattoo was presented in December at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco. It is said to be the thinnest epidermal electronics device ever devised.
How does it work?
Scientists have been talking about graphene for years, its electrical and mechanical durability. It is essentially, mechanically invisible so that when it’s placed on the skin, it is virtually undetectable. This is because it doesn’t just lay on top of the skin’s top layer, but it actually conforms to the microscale ridges and unevenness of the epidermis. It’s so compliant that you cannot feel it.
The process of developing this graphene starts by growing one single-layer of graphene on a sheet of copper. The scientist the coats this 2D carbon sheet with a stretchy support polymer substance and the copper is then etched off. The next step is to take the now, polymer-graphene combo template and place it on a temporary tattoo paper and the graphene is carved to make electrodes using stretchy spiral-shaped connections between them. Then, the excess graphene is removed and now the sensor is ready to be used which is done by wetting the back of the paper and placing in on the skin, just the same as you would do with a temporary tattoo.
The future of graphene
Working with graphene is still in its infancy stage, according to scientists, although it’s already looking very promising as an important component to revolutionizing the medical field. With much more research and development effort into graphene, it is expected that there will be more effective and longer lasting preventative methods of treatment used for multiple areas of medicine that will be there and were enabled by graphene.
Already, graphene has shown that it has great potential even beyond vital sign monitoring. Scientists say that it has an incredible potential for cancer detection and treatment. It is anticipated that beyond cancer cell detection, it will be able to detect cancer tumors and much more. The Chinese have already developed a single-cell sensor that is based on graphene field-effect transistors and it is able to distinguish that of one single cancer cell in the body. This alone, opens the door for graphene in other areas of medicine and especially in the field of cancer detection and treatment.