Researchers have now successfully used the human body as a communication interface after sending data through wires and air.
Researchers at Korea University in Seoul have transmitted data at a rate of 10 megabits per second through a person's arm, between two electrodes placed on their skin 30 centimetres apart.
AdvertisementThe thin, flexible electrodes use significantly less energy than a wireless link like Bluetooth, because low-frequency electromagnetic waves pass through skin with little attenuation- a route that also shelters them from outside interference.
And the researchers believe their technology holds huge health benefits for the users.
It is difficult to monitor vital signs, such as blood sugar and electrical activity of the heart, in a person going about their everyday lives because it means either covering them in snaking wires connected to a recording device, or using wireless transmission.
"If we use wireless for each of these vital signs we would need many batteries," New Scientist quoted study co-author Sang-Hoon Lee as saying.
A network transmitting through the skin would cut energy needs by roughly 90 per cent, he said.
The researchers coated a metal electrode with a flexible silicon-rich polymer to ensure that it was skin safe by asking volunteers to wear an electrode on their shoulder, or behind their ear for a week.
They also carried out cytotoxicity tests using human cell cultures.
The entire device is 300 micrometres thick - about the width of three human hairs - and withstood tests in which it was bent to a 90-degree angle 700,000 times.
Now, the researchers are working with a large electronics manufacturer to develop health-monitoring networks using the new electrodes.
Lee said future versions could even be embedded beneath the skin for long-term monitoring applications, such as electrocardiography (ECG) or electroencephalography (EEG).
The study has been published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.
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