By Mark Shortt
If you’ve ever had to wear a medical monitoring device and found the experience to be physically awkward and even uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Traditionally, body-worn electronics have tended to be bulky, rigid devices that make it hard to forget we’re wearing them. But where there’s discomfort, there’s opportunity—at least for MC10, a 9-year-old startup in Lexington, Massachusetts, that works to develop new form factors for wearable electronics.
MC10, driven by its mission to improve human health, is literally reshaping the way we think about and use electronics. The company employs the stretchable electronics developed by its co-founder, John Rogers, and his team, as a technological foundation for creating flexible, body-worn computing systems that enable us to gain better insights into our health.
Because they are planar and hard, conventional electronics are a mechanical mismatch with soft, curvilinear substrates, like human skin, said Roozbeh Ghaffari, chief technical officer of MC10, in an email to D2P. But by exploiting mechanics and physical properties of semiconductor materials—like silicon—at the micro- and nanoscales, MC10 has developed a new class of soft bioelectronics and biosensors that can be seamlessly laminated on the body to capture physiological and environmental data and insights, Roozbeh said. The company calls this new class of products “epidermal electronics.”
“The form factor and mechanical properties of standard electronics and associated systems are typically obtrusive, and represent a critical pain point in biomedical disciplines,” Ghaffari wrote. “MC10 is addressing this fundamental mismatch with its epidermal electronics platform and demonstrating the clinical, signal quality, and usability value of this technology.”
MC10 (www.mc10inc.com) uses soft, stretchable, and moisture-resistant polymeric and elastomeric materials to enable soft contact and coupling with the human skin. These materials encapsulate and protect the circuitry and biosensors for both short- and long-term wear cycles, Ghaffari said.
One of the company’s products is the BioStamp Research Connect™ (BioStampRC™), a sensor-based system that can be placed on various parts of the body to gather physiological data. The system includes an accelerometer, gyroscope, and electrodes to measure motion and biopotentials. It employs the BioStamp™ Sensor, a soft, wearable device that’s flexible enough to conform to the contours of the human body. The wearable device wirelessly transmits data via Bluetooth LE to a smart tablet or phone, which, in turn, transmits the collected data sets to the cloud. An online portal is used to design studies, as well as for data visualization and downloading of data.
Ghaffari said that researchers in academia, biotech, pharma, and the military are using the BioStamp Research Connect product to capture important physiological datasets in clinical studies.
To enable large scale manufacturing, MC10 has also partnered with contract manufacturers to create new products that utilize epidermal electronics technologies. The My UV Patch product, a L’Oréal marketed product licensed by MC10, is the first new product that was born out of an MC10 partnership with a leading cosmetic brand, Ghaffari said.
For more on stretchable electronic materials, see Is a Stretchable Smart Tablet in Our Future? and Researchers Engineer a Stretchable Rubber that Packs a Thermal Conductive Punch.