Flexible computing hits the right vein

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a circuit board made with thin film transistors that are flexible enough to wrap around a nerve or blood vessel.

According to a paper issued by the team, they managed to laminate shape-memory polymers on top of thin film transistor circuits to create a chip that’s rigid at room temperature, but becomes pliant and flexible at body temperatures.

The film transistors could wrap around a diameter as small as 2.25 millimetres, and when implanted in rats the devices maintained conductivity while flexing with the surrounding tissue. It is not clear what the rat thought.

Graduate student Jonathan Reeder, the primary author on the research paper said that scientists and physicians have been trying to put electronics in the body for a while now, but one of the problems is that the stiffness of common electronics is not compatible with biological tissue.

“You need the device to be stiff at room temperature so the surgeon can implant the device, but soft and flexible enough to wrap around 3-D objects so the body can behave exactly as it would without the device. By putting electronics on shape-changing and softening polymers, we can do just that.”

The system needs further testing and if the materials prove reliable, and can be made to encompass more sensory capabilities while wrapping around even smaller structures.

It could lead to a whole range of body sensors to monitor health conditions like blood pressure heart rate, progression of diseases. Of course, fundamentalist Christians will claim that it is the mark of the beast predicted in the book of Revelations and call for the technology to be banned. We suspect a couple of rats might have similar objections and want the gear off their veins.