Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, have designed a sticky, stretchy, gel-like material that can incorporate temperature sensors, LED lights and other electronics along with tiny drug-delivering reservoirs and channels and may very well be the new ‘Band-Aid” of the future.
The new “smart wound dressing” is capable of releasing drugs in response to changes in temperature of the skin. Also, it can be designed to light up to denote various situations, e.g. low levels of drugs.
When the dressing is applied to a highly flexible area, such as the elbow or knee, it stretches with the body, keeping the embedded electronics functional and intact.
The hydrogel matrix which is essentially a rubbery, water-based material that strongly bonds to surfaces such as gold, titanium, aluminium, silicon, glass and ceramic was designed by a research group led by Associate Professor Xuanhe Zhao at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
The embedding of the hydrogel with electronic components (conductive wires, semiconductor chips, LED lights and temperature sensors) to make the “smart wound dressing” has been recently published in Advanced Materials and can be found here.
Zhao says electronics coated in hydrogel may be used not just on the surface of the skin but also inside the body, for example as implanted, biocompatible glucose sensors, or even soft, compliant neural probes.
Dr. Zhao said, “Electronics are usually hard and dry, but the human body is soft and wet. These two systems have drastically different properties. If you want to put electronics in close contact with the human body for applications such as health care monitoring and drug delivery, it is highly desirable to make the electronic devices soft and stretchable to fit the environment of the human body. That’s the motivation for stretchable hydrogel electronics.”
Source: MIT News