• Home  / 
  • Featured
  •  /  Smart Band-Aid Of The Future Senses Temperature, Lights Up and Delivers Medicine

Smart Band-Aid Of The Future Senses Temperature, Lights Up and Delivers Medicine

Stretchable Hydrogel Electronics

From the looks of it, it might just as well be the future version of a “smart band-aid”. We are of course talking about the newly created stretchable, highly sticky material that looks like gel and can integrate itself well with LED lights, temperature sensors and other types of electronics. This material has been designed by a group of MIT engineers. Furthermore, the material can be safely incorporated into the puny-sized channels and reservoirs which deliver drugs into the human body via skin. Every time any change is detected in the temperature of the skin, the smart band-aid releases the appropriate medicines. When medicinal supplies are low, the material can also ‘loosen up’ its grip on the skin, so to speak. Truly remarkable, ain’t it? But that is not where its functionality ends.

Say you apply this ‘wound dressing’ material to a flexible area of your body such as your elbow. This smart band-aid will then stretch itself as you stretch your body, while making sure that the electronic gadgets embedded within remain fully operational.

So how does it differ from the ordinary band-aids we know now?

The key to this special gel that makes such a smart band-aid possible has been designed by the associate professor of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Xuanhe Zhao. Indeed, this hydrogel is quite different from the typical hydrogel most band-aids of today are made of. Ordinary synthetic hydrogel materials are rather delicate; they have far less elasticity, are hardly as stretchable as this new hydrogel material and also cannot stick to all kinds of skin surfaces with equal grip and elasticity.

professor Xuanhe Zhao

Professor Xuanhe Zhao stretching hydrogel (Image Credits: Melanie Gonick/MIT)

It was indeed a challenge for Zhao to overcome these issues, but he and his smart team came up with extremely strong hydrogel material. Prof. Zhao and his team selected a tiny amount of certain types of biopolymers, mixed them with water to create this highly soft and stretchy material whose stiffness can range anywhere from ten to one hundred kilopascals – that is, about the same range of stiffness as those of human tissues. Researchers also figured that they should make this hydrogel material compatible with nonporous surfaces as well.

At the final stage of this experiment, Zhao and his team of researchers embedded several different electronic gadgets to a sheet of this hydrogel, creating the “smart band-aid” – a wound dressing system on which you can easily embed electronic equipments such as tiny drug delivery reservoirs as well as evenly spaced temperature monitoring tools.

About the author

Warren Simons