South Korea develops a nanotechnology tattoo as a health monitoring gadget

If a research team's idea bears fruit, South Koreans may soon be able to carry a gadget within their own bodies in the form of a customised tattoo that automatically notifies them to potential health risks.

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, southwest of Seoul, have invented an electronic tattoo ink that serves as a bioelectrode and is made of liquid metal and carbon nanotubes.

It can deliver a readout of a patient's heart rate and other vital indicators such as glucose and lactate to a monitor when connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) device or other biosensor.

The researchers want to someday eliminate the need for biosensors.

"In the future, we intend to link a wireless chip integrated with this ink so that we may communicate or transmit signals back and forth between our body and an external device," said research leader and materials science and engineering professor Steve Park.

In principle, such monitors might be placed everywhere, including patients' residences.

The ink is non-invasive and composed of gallium particles, a soft, silvery metal also used in semiconductors and thermometers. Platinum-decorated carbon nanotubes aid in the conductivity of electricity while also improving durability.

"When it is put to the skin, the tattoo does not come off even with rubbing, which is not feasible with only liquid metal," Park explained.

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