A PhD student of Tomsk Polytechnic University Anna Lipovka is designing a technology for creating electronic tattoos sensors out of graphene oxide. This material allows significant reduction of the cost of the existing technology. Recently, Anna’s project has become the winner of Gazprombank Fellowships for young TPU scientists.
Photo: A solution of graphene and samples of laser-reduced graphene oxide on glass and plastic substrates.
The Gazprombank Fellowships competition was held on the basis of the TPU Business Incubator and the Engineer Entrepreneurship Polygon. The competition is intended to support profit-focused projects of TPU young scientists. There were two winners of the competition: rGO-Tattoo by Anna Lipovka and The Portable Device For Monitoring The Physical Condition Of The Driver by Alexei Tsavnin.
The concept of electronic tattoos is being developed by research teams in different countries of the world. Tattoos present electronic sensors that are attached directly at the skin of a person using a transparent and very thin polymer substrate. These sensors can take information on the skin’s hydration and temperature, as well as signals from muscles and brain activity.
Existing technologies use, for example, gold nanoparticles. In turn, TPU PhD student Anna Lipkova suggests using a cheaper and more accessible solution of graphene oxide, i.e. a compound of carbon with oxygen-containing groups.
‘The very idea of on-body sensors is already existed and the term ‘electronic tattoo’ has become generally accepted in this field. However, there is no data on their commercial application yet. Our development features the used material and, accordingly, the technology used. We apply graphene oxide on polymer substrate – you may use any polymer dependently on an objective – then we draw conductive channels on the substrate using laser. When exposed to laser, graphene oxide transforms into a conductive material reduced graphene oxide (rGO).
When the properties of the skin or subcutaneous layer change, the resistance of graphene changes too. This parameter is monitored via electrical contacts.
Changing the resistance makes it possible interpreting signals, for example, from muscles. But this is physicians’ business,’ explains the young scientist.
Graphene oxide is mechanically stable, optically transparent and, the most important, biocompatible.
‘Tattoos can be placed on different parts of the body, depending on the sensor. They won’t be any trouble for a person. Electronic tattoos are applied the same way as conventional temporary tattoos,’ adds Anna.
The post-graduate student is working under the supervision of TPU professor Raul Rodrigez and TPU professor Evgeniya Sheremet. Assistant of the Department Olga Nozdrina masters the technology.
‘Imagine graphene oxide, in fact, it is ordinary graphite like the one in pencils, treated with a strong oxidizer. Its cost and the cost of associated elements are much less than gold, even if we deal with nanoparticles.
Therefore, our technology and materials used are more cost-effective for mass production.
For the next stage we are tasked to develop algorithms for data collection from sensor for their further interpretation. Together with medical scientists from the Tomsk Research Institute of Cardiology we are also going to determine what parameters should be taken with these sensors,’ notes Professor Evgeniya Sheremet from the Department of Lasers and Lighting Technology.