Since its publication in late July, a research paper about drawn-on-skin electronics from a group overseen by Dr. Cunjiang Yu, the Bill D. Cook Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston, has been spotlighted by many media outlets.
The paper was initially published in Nature Communications, but it has since been picked up by several outlets, primarily ones specializing in circuitry and electronics, biomedicine and the healthcare fields. It has also been a positive for Faheem Ershad, a doctoral student of Yu’s at the Cullen College of Engineering, who served as the paper’s first author. He was interviewed by Scientific American about the paper.
“I have been fortunate to contribute to nine other published papers so far with my colleagues, with three of them being either co-first author or first author,” he said.
Beyond Ershad, other contributors from UH included Anish Thukral, Phillip Comeaux, Yuntao Lu, Hyunseok Shim, Kyoseung Sim, Nam-In Kim, Zhoulyu Rao, Ross Guevara, Luis Contreras, Fengjiao Pan, Yongcao Zhang, Ying-Shi Guan, Pinyi Yang, Xu Wang and Peng Wang, as well as Jiping Yue and Xiaoyang Wu from the University of Chicago.
According to Yu, the electronics can be applied to skin similar to how we write on the back of our hand or write on a piece of paper. The drawn-on-skin electronics are able to seamlessly collect data, regardless of the wearer’s movements, and as a result Ershad said they could provide more accurate results for health monitoring.
“Drawn-on-skin [DoS] electronics employs an astoundingly simple approach to solve a problem that substantially hinders wearable technologies today,” he said. “That problem is the challenge of accounting for the natural motions of the human body during health monitoring, and since wearable technologies are very susceptible to motion during sensing, motion artifacts can arise, resulting in misdiagnoses, further leading to increased and unnecessary medical care.”
Ershad added, “By drawing electronic devices directly on the skin, there is no more relative motion between the skin and the electronics since the materials are liquid, and naturally conform and strongly adhere to all the crevices in the rough surface of human skin. In addition to solving this longstanding challenge, the customizability, multi-functionality and ease of use of the pens, inks and stencils make DoS electronics a uniquely simple and powerful way to personalize healthcare and medicine.”
Going forward, Ershad said the research group would continue its work on refining the technology and developing more applications.
“There’s plenty of work to do and we hope that people in the field will start to realize the benefits of this technology and work on improving it,” he said. “Of course, we plan to work on specific things ourselves, namely, sensing biochemical markers, implementation in vivo [on internal organs of the body], and a fully wireless system that removes the necessity for any external wiring on the body. This work will be an extension of the current work and we hope to also develop new applications and approaches to sensing that could be widely employed in healthcare and medicine.”