Anyone suffering from heart disease or other heart ailments that require regular heart monitoring. The new wearable technology could make heart health monitoring easier and more accurate than existing electrocardiograph machines — a technology that has changed little in almost a century.
The electronic tattoo technology is a graphene-based wearable device that can be placed on the skin to measure a variety of body responses, from electrical to biomechanical signals. The device is so lightweight and stretchable that it can be placed over the heart for extended periods with little or no discomfort. Powered remotely by a smartphone, the e-tattoo measures both electrocardiogram (ECG) and seismocardiograph (SCG) readings simultaneously. ECG readings alone are not accurate enough for determining heart health but they provide additional information when combined with SCG signal recordings. Like a form of quality control, the SCG indicates the accuracy of the ECG readings. Although soft e-tattoos for ECG sensing are not new, other sensors are still made from non-stretchable materials, making them bulky and uncomfortable to wear. The e-tattoo is made of a piezoelectric polymer (polyvinylidene fluoride) that is capable of generating its own electric charge in response to mechanical stress. The device also includes 3D digital image correlation technology that is used to map chest vibrations in order to identify the best location on the chest to place the e-tattoo.
Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas at Austin
Usually, an ECG measurement requires going into a doctor's office, where heart health can be monitored only for a couple of minutes at a time. The e-tattoo can be worn for days, providing constant heart monitoring.
The team is working on improvements to data collection and storage for the device as well as ways to power the e-tattoo wirelessly for longer periods. They recently developed a smartphone app that not only stores the data safely but can also show a heart beating on the screen in real time.