Edible Electronic Tattoos on Food to Monitor Health

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Researchers have developed organic circuits that can be transferred in foods and pills for biomonitoring of health.

Researchers from Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa, Italy printed organic electronic components from transfer paper and examined the properties of resulting circuits. Furthermore, the circuits was transferred into pharmaceutical pills and fruits. The technology functions by transferring thin film of ethyl cellulose polymer, which is stuck to a sheet of paper by a sacrificial layer of water-soluble starch or dextrin. Inkjet-printing technique was used to develop electronic circuits on transfer paper. Ethyl cellulose polymer film carry an image developed using conventional inkjet printing.

The team used four different biocompatible semiconducting polymers, such as poly (3-hexylthiophene), P3HT, and polystyrene. However, other two polymers, 29-DPP-TVT and P (NDI2OD-T2) are not tested for biocompatibility. The team was able to overcome the challenges by blending the active polymers with more-stable semiconductors, which reduced the effects of the transfer process.

“This result paves the way for the realization of robust complementary circuits,” said one of the researcher of study. “This system constitutes a simple and versatile platform for the integration of fully printed organic circuitry on food and pharmaceutical drugs.” Researchers stated that ethyl cellulose film is safe as edible coating on food materials. Furthermore, the technology is reported to be digestible, which doesn’t allow the saturation of compound in body over time.

These circuits integrated into fruits can monitor the ripeness edibility of fruit and other perishable products throughout their shelf life. They can also be used to deliver drugs in specific conditions or to carry out assays inside the digestive tract. However, further research is required regarding edible batteries, which can generate power for such circuits. Also, to ensure the biocompatibility clinical trials are required.


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