Thin-film electronics intimately laminated onto the skin imperceptibly equip the human body with electronic components for health-monitoring and information technologies.

The Flexi-Tech Skin

A team of researchers from the university of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering have developed a wearable skin that has OLED electronics embedded in it. Although being able to screen movies on our backs is not within our reach, the implications of wearable technology, ranging from health monitoring to new ways of communication has the capacity of re-shaping the technology sector, especially from the human to machine aspect.

Takao Someya and Tomoyuki Yokota, the team that developed the skin believe that this piece of technology has the potential to revolutionise the way electronics and the human body interact. When electronic devices are worn, the mechanical flexibility and/or stretch-ability of thin-film devices helps to minimize the stress and discomfort associated with wear because of their conformability and softness. For industrial applications, it is important to fabricate wearable devices using processing methods that maximize throughput and minimize cost. (Yokota et al. 2016)

“The advent of mobile phones has changed the way we communicate. While these communication tools are getting smaller and smaller, they are still discrete devices that we have to carry with us,” Someya said in a statement.


Flexible Electronic Embedded Skin

Whilst attempts made previously to create such technology have been unable to overcome the oxygen and water vapour penetrating the skin problem, not to mention the limited longevity, this instance provided the opportunity to further improve the skins durability but also to protect it against the elements skin would experience daily. Increasing its life from mere hours to several days.

The team also attached indium tin oxide electrodes to a thin substrate without damaging it, powering ultra thin polymer light-emitting diodes (just three micrometres thick) and organic photo-detectors in the skin. The result is an electronic skin with an embedded OLED display that stretches and contracts with the skin. This would have tremendous applications, especially as a pulse monitor or blood oxygen sensor. (; 2016)

The combination of different types of organic devices on an ultra thin film is crucial to realizing multiple electronic functions on the surface of the skin using organic ultra thin-film devices for smart wearable and medical systems. Optoelectronic devices are especially important in medicine because these devices can non-invasively detect vital signs and other clinical information. (Yokota et al. Sci. Adv. 2016 )

Even though this breakthrough is far from appearing at your local pharmacy, the implications could completely redefine how electronics and the “body” interact and usher in a new wave of man to machine technology.


T. Yokota, P. Zalar, M. Kaltenbrunner, H. Jinno, N. Matsuhisa, H. Kitanosako, Y. Tachibana, W. Yukita, M. Koizumi, T. Someya, Ultraflexible organic photonic skin. Sci. Adv. 2, e1501856 (2016).

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