Tattoos have been normalized over the years. Now they face their next evolution: becoming biosensors

Tattoos have long been more than a hidden art. On the one hand, they stopped being hidden and became popular among the masses. And they stopped being just an art and became a piece of technology.

he wearable total A team of Turkish researchers has developed a technique that allows tattoo implantation Able to communicate passively and wirelessly And it doesn’t require implants, wires or an external power source. The inventors named the contraption the backscatter-based nanotattoo sensor, or BNTS (Backscattering-based nanotattoo sensors)

The main use of this technology could be to monitor biometric information and transmit it to a device such as a Smartphone.

In two colors. Researchers used two inks to create this smart tattoo. One of them, black, is composed of a conductive graphene airgel; And the second, white, is composed of zinc oxide and contains nanowires, which are placed on top of the first layer, which also contains a small amount of airgel to allow the union and conductivity of both layers.

Corresponding layers of these nanotattoos are injected simultaneously but through different needles. The work was presented an article in the magazine IEEE Electron Device Letters From Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

From fiction to reality: skin-implanted NFC chips to help with everyday tasks

How does it work? Its developers explain that this technology is based on ambient backscatter (Ambient backscattering) researchers compared this technology to radio frequency identification systems (RFID), with a greater capacity to use only frequencies between 900 MHz and 2.45 GHz.

specify. “When the painted tag receives a radio frequency signal, it reflects some of the signal to establish a higher link with the reader.” Smartphone At the same time that Smartphone By establishing a downward link with the label” explain the authors in the article in which they present the invention. Through these connections, our phone can monitor the tattoo and evaluate the information compiled by it, as the authors of the article continue to explain.

And for what? This type of design allows us to monitor certain aspects of health. In fact, this is not the only functional tattoo development. A few months ago, for example, we learned about the development of tattoos that were used to monitor our blood glucose or albumin levels, for example, to alleviate problems associated with diabetes.

This device is not the first electronic tattoo either. For exampleAn American team recently developed a similar system, also made of graphene, capable of continuously monitoring our blood pressure.

An autonomous tattoo. One of the great advances involved in the new development was the creation of a mechanism capable of generating its own electrical signals. It achieves this thanks to the piezoelectric action, which allows the generation of electric currents through changes in pressure, in this case caused by the deformation of the tattoo due to the movement of the skin.

Another key reason for the development of this type of gadget is the difficulty of converting graphene into something that can be used as an antenna in the circuit of these biosensors.

Small progress. Numerous groups are currently working on the development of compact and autonomous biosensors that allow us to monitor our health status in real time, reliably and without additional costs. Proper monitoring of our health is the key to preventing diseases and risk situations, especially in a context where non-communicable diseases are gradually gaining weight. Of course, looking at the first images, there’s still a lot of room for improvement aesthetically.

In BDtechsupport | Tattoos do not fade. That’s why science is already using them to control diabetes.

Picture | Andrej Lisakov

*A previous version of this article was published in June 2023