Researchers at UCL and the Italian Institute of Technology used the same basic principle as a temporary tattoo, which is transferred onto the skin by soaking and pressing, but combined it with OLED tech to produce the new devices.
When combined with other wearable technologies, the smart tattoos could emit light when an athlete is dehydrated or alert sunbathers of impending sunburn. They could also be used to alert when a product, such as food or medicine, has passed its expiration date.
“These could be for fashion–for instance, providing glowing tattoos and light-emitting fingernails,” says senior author of the research paper Professor Franco Cacialli (UCL Physics & Astronomy).
“In sports, they could be combined with a sweat sensor to signal dehydration.”
The prototype still needs work, the researchers acknowledge, including protecting it for longer-term use and preventing it from degrading too quickly.
They are also hoping to improve the device, which measures just 2.3 micrometers thick in total (one third the length of a single blood cell), with better batteries or super capacitors for longer life.