Boffins working on biodegradable flexi LED implants
Silky hand-tattoo displays to replace watches, PDAs?
Boffins in America are working on biodegradable, flexible electronic devices printed on silk, which could be implanted in the human body and would decay naturally over time. Applications could include LED displays inlaid beneath the skin, or direct nerve-controlled interfaces.
MIT Tech Review reports on the new in-body tech, which is seen as much more practical and less invasive than current implants. These have rigid structures and have to be "canned" or encased to protect them from body fluids and vice versa.
Rather, Professor Brian Litt of Pennsylvania Uni plans to build devices laid on flexible, foldable, rollable thin silk sheets. The silk backing is gradually absorbed without difficulty by the body - Litt and his fellow boffins can design for a period of months or years as required - leaving only microscopic amounts of silicon, as the circuitry is only nanometres thick. Silicon is "biocompatible" rather than "biodegradable", but in such tiny amounts it isn't an issue.
All this means that an electronic device can be rolled up or folded and slipped into place through a relatively small incision. Litt and his colleagues believe they will soon have working silk-backed LEDs, for instance, allowing one to have an LED "tattoo" beneath one's skin able to display anything from the time to one's current blood-sugar count.
Other ploys might include connections to the nerves, perhaps wirelessly linked to computers or other devices. Other researchers have also proposed using such hookups to "jumpwire" past broken or damaged nerve connections, so restoring control over a paralysed limb.
The flexibility of wetted silk might even allow circuitry to conform to the contours of the brain, according to the scientists, perhaps allowing deep-brain stimulation techniques of the sort used to keep Parkinson's disease under control.
Obstacles that lie ahead before we all get our under-skin bluetooth OLED displays, brain-to-computer direct interfaces, nerve jumpwire links and so on include the elimination of gold and titanium from the flexi-circuitry tech, and in many cases the matter of power supplies.
"It would be nice to see the sophistication of [implant] devices start to catch up with the sophistication of our basic science, and this technology could really close that gap," Litt told Tech Review. ®
Foreseen over 30 years ago in the orginal Rogue Trader source book.
I see where this is leading
Pretty soon, people will be renting out their bodies as human billboards selling advertising time on Ebay. It's happened before.
I'll need one on my right middle finger nail, so I can goatse someone while flipping them the bird. My life would be pretty much complete after that.
Could they make it
work on some sort of fat-munching principle? That'd make it sell!
As others have already said, this is the type of tech I've been waiting for before getting a tattoo. When utterly static they're just not functional enough.
Nerve implants could be used to make all sorts of trippy visualisations, autostereoscopic tattoos could make all sorts of really realistic/impressive looking "exposed muscles/ bones/ adamantium claws" effects!
Power isn't a problem- a couple of transdermal contacts or an inductive system would be perfectly suitable. Even conductive ink tattoos from (say) the wrist and up the arm to a shoulder-mounted (where bulk is less of an aesthetic issue) battery / processing pack wouldn't be that bad. Or- on men, anyway- split the penis and stretch it around a stack of batteries + conductive foam. Et voila, instant enlargement, porn on-the-wrist AND it's really high tech. Add in bluetooth and what man wouldn't buy it?
Would it be possible to have IR as well as visible-spectrum LEDs mounted? How about photodiodes? That could give a great method of simple low-power nonpenetrative comms.
"allowing one to have an LED 'tattoo' beneath one's skin able to display... one's current blood-sugar count."
Now THAT's a clever AND useful application to everyday life. If the diabetes rate is as bad in the UK as it is over here, this will be extremely popular tech. Pricking one's skin numerous times each and every day is, quite literally, a pain.