Stretchable, Wearable Gold Links Electronics to Human Bodies

With nano-technology taking its place in today’s products, inventors and scientists are turning their eyes on applying the technology to human bodies. The first generation of actual products focuses on the application of electronic devices to skin – we reported earlier on a fuel cell patch developed at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, for instance.

MC10, a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, recently released its first mass-market product – a stretchable, wearable light designed to protect runners in the dark, which was developed in partnership with Reebok. Other products in development are applied directly to the skin and are targeted at consumer (sports, fitness) and healthcare markets to monitor physical data.

Mr. Roozbeh Ghaffari, MC10 Co-Founder and Director of Advanced Concepts, explains the approach: “MC10’s proprietary technology takes conventional electronics components and biosensors and reorients them in a network that accommodates extreme flexibility and stretch for on-the-human-body wearable applications. Our devices incorporate silicon devices thinned to a fraction of the width of a human hair. These chips, combined with stretchable metallic interconnects, are combined with thin sheets of polymer to create fully functional wirelessly enabled systems that track your physiological and kinematic activities.”

How are they doing it? “We have developed proprietary techniques for the integration of integrated circuits, passives and sensors in extremely thin formats that allow flexibility. These circuits and active components are all contained within the neutral mechanical plane of the system stack to minimize strains, while a network of springlike interconnects, which house routing lines, allow system-level rubberband like stretching.”

The technology brings electronics and human bodies one step closer to being merged eventually, thereby enhancing human performance and increasing health. All materials and technology metals involved will then face the challenge of being acceptable and compatible with human bodies that are susceptible to adverse or allergic reactions.

Precious metals, and gold in particular, come to mind as the materials of the future, especially if they can now be transformed into flexible components that will stretch and twist with body movement.

By Bodo Albrecht