Giving Our Skin Superpowers with Tattoo Nanotechnology

What if your skin could tell you when to apply sunscreen, when your blood sugar is low, or when you have a fever? Well, this isn’t a “what if” question anymore!

Researchers are combining an ancient art form with nanotechnology to turn the largest organ on our bodies into a powerful technological tool! Let’s see what this means for us…

Introducing, Tech Tattoos!

Now, before you pass judgment on what you think a tattoo can be or what they represent, think back to that opening paragraph. Tattoos have the potential to be more than just body art. Simple dots, squares, and subtle lines (if that’s more your style) could actually allow you to protect yourself, and diagnose issues before they become major medical problems!

So, how does this work?

Well, this is the brainchild of Carson Bruns, a chemist, artist, nanoscientist, and tattoo enthusiast who looked at the ink on his own arms and realized there was more potential to the world of tattoo artistry than just artwork. Indeed, these pigments could clue us on in on what was happening inside of our bodies!

In his great TEDx Talk, Carson explains how he came up with this idea and what lies ahead for all of us with turning our own skin into a space for remarkable innovation.

So, what do you think? Would you try out one of these tech tattoos?

I recently returned from a vacation where I was constantly applying and reapplying sunscreen. As the vacation progressed I was more and more convinced that I needed some solar freckles; something to subtly remind me it was time to reapply and stay protected.

Imagine what would be possible if we were to break down the stigma of tattooing. What if we saw it as a potential space for some incredible, even life-saving, innovation!

While the potential with these tech tattoos is fascinating, it’s also remarkable to think about how interdisciplinary this form of research is. Medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering, art, nanoscience, all of them coming together in one project!

Here’s a quick interview with Carson Bruns from Colorado University Engineering about this lab and the diversity of perspectives it takes to take on the kind of research he is helping to pioneer.

You can read more about Carson’s lab and the ways they are working to find innovative solutions using a cross-disciplinary approach by check out this great article from CU Boulder.

“We’re at a stage now where the most interesting stuff is happening at the interfaces of these different disciplines.” —Carson Bruns

These kinds of projects pushing us towards new breakthroughs, require we look beyond the walls of individual disciplines.

Like mixing paints to form new colors, combining the knowledge of different areas of research allows us to create combinations never seen before.

There are already some incredible examples of the kind of revolutions in technology happening in the world of biomimicry. Where scientists and engineers are turning to nature and biology push the boundaries of technology.

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