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The new electrodes that can be tattooed on the body using biocompatible ink15-03-2018

Advanced Science published the study on the technique for printing electrodes directly on temporary tattoo paper, through an ink jet printer, implemented by research teams of IIT Pontedera, University of Milan La Statale and Scuola Superiore S. Anna di Pisa.

The research team of IIT Pontedera, which is guided by Francesco Greco, now Assistant Professor at the University of Technology in Graz (Austria), in collaboration with Virgilio Mattoli, the research group from the Università of Milan La Statale, coordinated by Paolo Cavallari, and the team of Christian Cipriani from the Scuola Superiore S.Anna, Pisa, have together implemented the technique for printing electrodes directly on temporary tattoo paper through an ink jet printer. The inks used, which can conduct electricity, are organic and compatible with the skin.

The study, published in the international magazine Advanced Science, means that giant steps forward can be taken in relation to the most commonly used electrophysiology techniques, for example electromyography and electrocardiography.

By combining the idea of Francesco Greco, namely using the transferrable tattoo technique for applying electrodes to the skin, with Christian Cipriani's experience in the biological engineering field and the medical approach of Paolo Cavallari, new, even thinner and lighter sensors were produced, in which external connections and interconnections are integrated directly in the tattoo.

The new electrodes are flexible and can adhere to the skin, adapting themselves to its wrinkles. They can be produced in the shape that is most suitable for the asperities of the body area where they have to be applied, in order to identify the correct electric signal in a more precise manner. They can even be used on parts of the body where application was unthinkable in the past, for example the face.

They are dry sensors that can correctly transmit the electric signal for 3 days, differently from normal electrodes that need a gel to interface with the skin and which maintain their efficiency for no more than 8 hours before drying. After use, the new sensors can be washed away with soap and water, just like common temporary tattoos.

In addition, the new sensors represent the first case of electrodes that can be perforated and which really do work. The developed technology, in fact, allows body hair to grow through the surface of the electrode, a very important aspect for accurate electroencephalography over a long period because hair growth often moves the electrode, making measuring imprecise.

"With the new electrodes we can record electrophysiological signals on the skin of patients and athletes for long periods of time and without interfering with or limiting normal activity" - states Paolo Cavallari. "We believe they are very advantageous for patients who often need this type of test, or who need to be monitored continually".


For more information
The University of Milan
Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation
Prof. Paolo Cavallari
Phone +39 02 503 15456 - 15453

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