Epidermal electronic system is a class of hair thin, skin soft, stretchable sensors and electronics capable of continuous and long-term physiological sensing and clinical therapy when applied on human skin. The high cost of manpower, materials, and photolithographic facilities associated with its manufacture limit the availability of disposable epidermal electronics. We have invented a cost and time effective, completely dry, benchtop “cut-and-paste” method for the green, freeform and portable manufacture of epidermal electronics within minutes. We have applied the “cut-and-paste” method to manufacture epidermal electrodes, hydration and temperature sensors, conformable power-efficient heaters, as well as cuffless continuous blood pressure monitors out of metal thin films, two-dimensional (2D) materials, and piezoelectric polymer sheets. For demonstration purpose, we will discuss three examples of “cut-and-pasted” epidermal electronic systems in this paper. The first will be submicron thick, transparent epidermal graphene electrodes that can be directly transferred to human skin like a temporary transfer tattoo and can measure electrocardiogram (ECG) with signal-to-noise ratio and motion artifacts on par with conventional gel electrodes. The second will be a chest patch which houses both electrodes and pressure sensors for the synchronous measurements of ECG and seismocardiogram (SCG) such that beat-to-beat blood pressure can be inferred from the time interval between the R peak of the ECG and the AC peak of the SCG. The last example will be a highly conformable, low power consumption epidermal heater for thermal therapy.
Epidermal electronics is a class of noninvasive and unobstructive skin-mounted, tattoo-like sensors and electronics capable of vital sign monitoring and establishing human-machine interface. The high cost of manpower, materials, vacuum equipment, and photolithographic facilities associated with its manufacture greatly hinders the widespread use of disposable epidermal electronics. Here we report a cost and time effective, completely dry, benchtop “cut-and-paste” method for the freeform and portable manufacture of multiparametric epidermal sensor systems (ESS) within minutes. This versatile method works for all types of thin metal and polymeric sheets and is compatible with any tattoo adhesives or medical tapes. The resulting ESS are multimaterial and multifunctional and have been demonstrated to noninvasively but accurately measure electrophysiological signals, skin temperature, skin hydration, as well as respiratory rate. In addition, planar stretchable coils exploiting double-stranded serpentine design have been successfully applied as wireless, passive epidermal strain sensors.
Flexible electronics and photonics are providing revolutionary solutions for communication, energy, and health care. While some of the organic electronic and photonic materials are intrinsically deformable and low cost to manufacture, their performance and chemical stabilities are yet to match conventional inorganic semiconductors. Strategies for high performance flexible electronics and photonics must overcome challenges associated with the intrinsic stiffness and brittleness of inorganic materials. This paper discusses recent modeling and experimental advancement in the bendability and stretchability of inorganic electronics and photonics. Examples include the discovery of multiple neutral axes in multilayer structures and the comparison between freestanding and polymer-bonded serpentine ribbons.