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Untethered stretchable electronic bandages

Researchers of Morphing Matter Lab and Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon University developed a new type of wearable electronic bandages with a spandex blend base that can temporarily be attached to the body.

Wearable electronics are a category of electronic devices ranging from smartwatches to wireless earbuds, from smart glasses to electronically enhanced tattoos. Each of these devices brings computation closer to the human body. However, most commercially available wearables are made of rigid materials like metals and hard plastics, limiting their placement to locations of low movement or flexibility and therefore diminishing overall functions and signal quality.

ElectroDermis, as the new wearables are called, aims to simplify the creation of highly-functional and stretchable wearable electronics. Rather than focusing on a single on-skin component like. Sensor or an actuator, the new wearables combine a network of all the necessary electronic components for sensing, signal, processing, wireless communication, and power infrastructure.

These wearables can be temporarily be attached to the body, like bandages, though they are reusable. The normally rigid circuit boards are discretised in individual components and wired together using stretchable electrical wiring and assembled on a spandex bled fabric, to provide high-functionality.

To make the wearables, the researchers created an interactive design tool for end users. It provides a method to easily select the target body region forma predefined 3D model of the human body or a 3D scan of the wearer. The selected 3D surface is parametrically cut and flattened to provide minimal distortion. The electric components are then placed on the flattened 2D pattern and a baseline is prescribed between each of the electronic components for electrical wiring based on a predefined circuit scheme. To enable copper electrical wiring to be stretchable, the design tool automatically superimposes a wavy, serpentine architecture based on the baseline curve specified by the designer

The researchers used the new technology to design a forehead temperature mask, a food detecting necklace, a motion tracker placed on the knee, vital monitoring earrings, a smart wound healing bandage and an environment-aware bracelet.

Photos: Morphing Matters Lab