A team of researchers from the UK’s University College London (UCL) and the Italian Institute of Technology have revealed that OLED technology can be used in combination with temporary tattoos, effectively providing health professionals with new methods to care for patients.
The study states the light-emitting technology could be mixed with other tattoo electronics to alert individuals when they need to seek shelter from the sun’s rays to avoid severe burns, or in instances when an athlete may be nearing dehydration.
In other cases, the technology could even be tapped to signal when food has gone to waste instead of depending on the expiration date notation on products, which often vary across goods.
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"The tattooable OLEDs that we have demonstrated for the first time can be made at scale and very cheaply,” Franco Cacialli, the senior author of the study who also serves as a UCL professor, said in a statement accompanying a Friday UCL release.
“They can be combined with other forms of tattoo electronics for a very wide range of possible uses. These could be for fashion - for instance, providing glowing tattoos and light-emitting fingernails.”
"In healthcare, they could emit light when there is a change in a patient's condition - or, if the tattoo was turned the other way into the skin, they could potentially be combined with light-sensitive therapies to target cancer cells, for instance,” he added.
According to the UCL release, the device developed by the team of researchers is only 2.3 micrometers thick, and consists of an electroluminescent polymer that sits between a pair of electrodes, with an insulating layer also fitted between the electrodes and commercial tattoo paper. The tech is then applied by simply dabbing the device with water.
Officials were able to successfully use the OLED device on a pane of glass, a plastic bottle, paper packaging and even an orange. The light emitted by the tech was green, researchers noted.
Cacialli further indicated in the UCL release that the team intends to study how they can extend the duration of the temporary OLED tattoos. Additionally, they hope to fuse “a battery or supercapacitor” to the device.
These findings were published in the recent edition of the journal of Advanced Electronic Material.