Digital humanism makes a mark in technology every day as in the nearby future we shall be able to wear thermometers on the go. Just stick one beneath your tongue, wait a minute, and everything you need to know is right in front of you. But there’s a lot more that temperature can tell us if we’re paying close attention. “Normally on temperature, I’d think that’s not very interesting,” John Rogers, a University of Illinois researcher, has been working on a series of super-thin, flexible electronics that are both wearable and totally unnoticeable to their wearer — they’re so thin, they’ve often been referred to as electronic tattoos. With his team, they have come up with a hypersensitive thermometer attached to the skin that he says can do the job of a quarter-million dollar thermal infrared camera, even though it costs only cents worth of parts.
His team’s new device, which is being described today in a paper published in Nature Materials, resembles the wearable electronics that Rogers has been working on for years. It looks like a small gilded barcode with vines snaking out of its top, and is applied to the skin using a water-soluble glue. Two different versions were created that work in different ways, but both have the same result: they can precisely determine the temperature at multiple points across the skin, and can even introduce fine spikes of heat in order to measure how the skin reacts.
Skin is a starting point
His team is experimenting with how the device could be applied to internal organs, even being placed right against the interior wall of the team is measure its own properties. Right now that’s just temperature, but additional sensors could be added on to report back an even richer body of detail, says Rogers, “Skin is a starting point.”