Ink of My Heart

What if a tattoo could save your life?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Heart disease patients need continuous heart monitoring for optimum treatment. But traditional monitors are bulky and uncomfortable to wear.

Electronic, or E-tattoos, are a comfortable, wearable alternative. These thin devices are applied to the skin like a temporary tattoo. The problem? They only measure electrical activity. And doctors need a second measurement: the heart’s physical vibration.

Nanshu Lu, from the University of Texas at Austin, may have just the thing. A material called polyvinylidene fluoride, or P-V-D-F, generates electricity when it moves. A patch worn on the chest could relay heart movement! But P-V-D-F is too rigid to wear comfortably!

So Lu made it more elastic by cutting it into a thin mesh. This made it almost as stretchy as skin. Much better!

How did it stack up? The e-tattoo performed just as well as bulkier vibration monitors, but was smaller and more comfortable! Lu thinks these e-tattoos could help save lives by providing comfortable, constant heart monitoring.

Most popular design? A heart. Apropos…if slightly unoriginal.