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Ultrathin conformal devices for precise and continuous thermal characterization of human skin

An Erratum to this article was published on 23 October 2013

This article has been updated


Precision thermometry of the skin can, together with other measurements, provide clinically relevant information about cardiovascular health, cognitive state, malignancy and many other important aspects of human physiology. Here, we introduce an ultrathin, compliant skin-like sensor/actuator technology that can pliably laminate onto the epidermis to provide continuous, accurate thermal characterizations that are unavailable with other methods. Examples include non-invasive spatial mapping of skin temperature with millikelvin precision, and simultaneous quantitative assessment of tissue thermal conductivity. Such devices can also be implemented in ways that reveal the time-dynamic influence of blood flow and perfusion on these properties. Experimental and theoretical studies establish the underlying principles of operation, and define engineering guidelines for device design. Evaluation of subtle variations in skin temperature associated with mental activity, physical stimulation and vasoconstriction/dilation along with accurate determination of skin hydration through measurements of thermal conductivity represent some important operational examples.

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Figure 1: Ultrathin, compliant, skin-like arrays of precision temperature sensors and heaters.
Figure 2: Functional demonstrations of epidermal temperature sensors and heaters.
Figure 3: Epidermal electronic evaluations of skin temperature at rest and during mental and physical stimulation.
Figure 4: Epidermal electronics for a reactive hyperaemia test.
Figure 5: Epidermal electronics configured for evaluating skin hydration and thermal conductivity.

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  • 26 September 2013

    In the version of this Article originally published, in Fig. 3b,c the labels at the top of the graphs were missing. This error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the Article.


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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DGE-1144245, Grant No. ECCS-0824129 and through the Materials Research Laboratory and Center for Microanalysis of Materials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. J.A.R. acknowledges financial support through a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship. The work on silicon nanomembranes was financially supported by a MURI grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of NIBIB, NIH. The authors would like to thank H. Eden for his invaluable critique and insightful comments during preparation of this manuscript.

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A.P.B., R.C.W., A.B., A.M.G. and J.A.R. designed the experiments. A.P.B., R.C.W., K.J.Y., Y-S.K., W-H.Y. and J.S.P. carried out the fabrication. A.P.B., R.C.W., A.B., A.M.G. and J.A.R. carried out experimental validation and data analysis. Y.Z., Z.B., J.S., Y.L. and Y.H. contributed to the thermal modelling of sensor response time and reactive hyperaemia. H.C., M.S., Z.L. and Y.H. contributed to the mechanical modelling of strain. R.C.W., A.P.B., A.B., Y.Z., H.C., Z.B., Y.H., A.M.G. and J.A.R. co-wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to John A. Rogers.

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Webb, R., Bonifas, A., Behnaz, A. et al. Ultrathin conformal devices for precise and continuous thermal characterization of human skin. Nature Mater 12, 938–944 (2013).

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