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Device displays electrocardiogram recorded by skin sensor, holds promise for home healthcare applications

Credit: 2018 Takao Someya Research Group

A thin, wearable elastic display is said to have shown the moving waveform of an electrocardiogram recorded by a breathable, on-skin electrode sensor.

When combined with a wireless communication module, the integrated biomedical sensor system, known as ‘skin electronics’ is able to transmit biometric data to the Cloud, according to a research team at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering and Dai Nippon Printing (DNP).

The team aim for its nanomesh sensor to go one step further than current wearable devices by enhancing information accessibility. The idea is to create a technology that aids individuals who have trouble operating or obtaining data from existing devices and interfaces, relieving the strain on home healthcare systems with non-invasive monitoring and self-care.

The researchers explain that the integrated system combines a flexible, deofmrable display with a lightweight sensor composed of a breathable nanomesh electrode and wireless communication module. Medical data measured by the sensor, such as an electrocardiogram, can either be sent wirelessly to a smartphone for viewing or to the cloud for storage.

The researchers claim that in their latest research, the display showed a moving electrocardiogram waveform that was stored in memory.

The skin display is said to comprise a 16 x 24 array of micro LEDs and stretchable wiring mounted on a rubber sheet.

"Our skin display exhibits simple graphics with motion," says led researcher, professor Takao Someya. "Because it is made from thin and soft materials, it can be deformed freely."

According to the team, the display is stretchable by as much as 45% of its original length and is ‘far more resistant’ to wear and tear or stretching than previous wearable displays. The team explains that this is because of its novel structure, which is said to minimise the stress resulting from stretching on the juncture of hard materials, such as the micro LEDs and soft materials like the elastic wiring.

The team claim that this is the first stretchable display to achieve superior durability and stability in air to an extent that not a single pixel failed in the matrix-type display while attached snugly onto the skin and continuously subjected to the stretching and contracting motion of the body.

Although this sensor, developed in an earlier study, was capable of measuring temperature, pressure and myoelectricity, the team say that it wasn’t until the latest research that it successfully recorded an electrocardiogram.

In a bid to keep cost low and accelerate commercialisation, the researchers screen printed the silver wiring and mounting the micro LEDs on the rubber sheet with a chip mounter and solder paste.

DNP is looking to improve the reliability of stretchable devices by optimising its structure, enhancing the production process for high integration and overcoming issues such as large-area coverage. It hopes to bring the nanomesh sensor to market within the next three years.

"The current aging society requires user-friendly wearable sensors for monitoring patient vitals in order to reduce the burden on patients and family members providing nursing care," says Someya. "Our system could serve as one of the long-awaited solutions to fulfil this need which will ultimately lead to improving the quality of life for many."

Watch the video, here.

Bethan Grylls

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