Science 3 min read

Researchers Develop Electronic Tattoo to Monitor Heart Rate

Engineers at the University of Texas, Austin have reportedly developed an electronic tattoo technology for monitoring people's heart health.

Image Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

Image Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. In other words, this disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the country.

Unfortunately, most people don’t detect heart diseases on time. According to the CDC, 47 percent of cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital.

This raises the need for active monitoring, and that’s where wearable technology comes in.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and led by Nanshu Lu in the Cockrell School of Engineering have developed an electronic tattoo to monitor heart health.

Not only does the new e-tattoo easier to use, but it also provides more accurate monitoring than existing electrocardiograph machines.

How Does the Electronic Tattoo Monitor Heart Rate?

Lu had previously developed a graphene-based electronic tattoo technology. By placing the wearable tech on the skin, users could measure various body responses, including electrical and biomechanical signals.

Working with other engineers from the University of Texas, Austin, the researcher adopted the pre-existing tech for heart monitoring.

The device is lightweight and stretchable. As a result, users can place it over their heart for an extended period without experiencing any discomfort.

The electronic tattoo measures cardiac health in two ways; using seismocardiograph and electrocardiograph (ECG) reading simultaneously.

With ECG, the device records the rate of electrical activity with each heartbeat. Seismocardiography (SCG), on the other hand, measures chest vibrations associated with pulses.

The e-tattoo is the first ultrathin, stretchable tech powered by a smartphone to take these two readings.

Speaking about the tech, associate professor in the departments of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and Biomedical Engineering, Lu said:

“We can get much greater insight into heart health by the synchronous collection of data from both sources.”

Advantage of Lu and her team’s eTattoo

While lots of wearable devices measure the heart rate today, they mostly depend on ECG readings. Unfortunately, ECG is not accurate enough to determine heart health.

However, when combined with SCG, the result is golden. Seismocardiography serves as a form of quality control to indicate the accuracy of ECG.

SCG sensing on devices is not entirely new too. But, they are often made from non-stretchable materials, which result in a bulky and uncomfortable wearable.

Lu and her team made their e-tattoo from a piezoelectric polymer called polyvinylidene fluoride, which generates an electric charge in response to mechanical stress. Users can also identify the best part of the chest to put the device using the in-built 3-D digital image correlation technology.

As impressive as the e-tattoo seems, the researchers are currently working on making it better. Possible future improvements include better storage and data collection methods, as well as a more efficient energy system.

Read More: Researchers Develop First Contactless Cardiac Arrest AI System

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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