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Apr 05, 2014 07:03 AM EDT

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University engineers have created a next generation health tracker- a skin patch similar to a temporary tattoo, which records and sends health information to synched smartphones or computers.

The temporary tattoo like patch is  thin and flexible and includes chip-based electronics for everyday health monitoring. One of the remarkable technologies incorporated in the patch is that the tiny, twisty wires are folded like origami. If the patch bends, twists or stretches, the wires also simultaneously fold in the direction, aligning with the motion.

Researchers believe that this flexible skin-worn patch could modernise clinical monitoring like EKG and EEG testing without the requirement of large wires, pads or tape. The current health trackers perform somewhat similar functions to that of EKG and EEG monitors, but patients found the patches to be more comfortable.

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"We designed this device to monitor human health 24/7, but without interfering with a person's daily activity," Yonggang Huang, the Northwestern University professor who co-led the work with Illinois professor John A. Rogers, said in a statement. "It is as soft as human skin and can move with your body, but at the same time it has many different monitoring functions. ...it is wirelessly powered and can send high-quality data about the human body to a computer, in real time."

Besides updating with health information, skin-mounted devices can also help keep track of fitness activity levels by sending complete and accurate data.

"When you measure motion on a wristwatch type device, your body is not very accurately or reliably coupled to the device," Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois, said. "Relative motion causes a lot of background noise. If you have these skin-mounted devices and an ability to locate them on multiple parts of the body, you can get a much deeper and richer set of information than would be possible with devices that are not well coupled with the skin."

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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