In a recent study published in ACS Nano, a team of researchers at Texas A&M University have designed a new class of biomaterial inks known as shear-thinning hydrogels that imitate the endemic and highly conductive properties of human tissue. This research opens the potential for expanding the field of flexible and wearable electronics, specifically pertaining to the ink being used in 3D-printing flexible bioelectronics.
"The impact of this work is far-reaching in 3D printing," said Dr. Akhilesh Gaharwar, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, Presidential Impact Fellow, and a co-author on the study. "This newly designed hydrogel ink is highly biocompatible and electrically conductive, paving the way for the next generation of wearable and implantable bioelectronics."
The biomaterial ink takes advantage of a new class of 2D nanomaterials known as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) that contain detect centers capable of making it chemically active and, when integrated with a modified gelatin which allows it to obtain a flexible hydrogel, demonstrates similarities to the structure of Jell-O. The shear-thinning properties of the ink act like toothpaste or ketchup where it’s solid inside a tube but flows like a liquid when it’s squeezed, with the resulting ink having the potential to be conducive to 3D printing.
"These 3D-printed devices are extremely elastomeric and can be compressed, bent or twisted without breaking," said Kaivalya Deo, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, and lead author of the study. "In addition, these devices are electronically active, enabling them to monitor dynamic human motion and paving the way for continuous motion monitoring."
After designing their own 3D bioprinter, the research team printed electrically active and stretchable electronic devices that along with demonstrating exceptional strain-sensing capabilities, can also be used for engineering customizable monitoring systems. One potential avenue for this new technology could be 3D printing electronic tattoos for patients with Parkinson’s disease that could monitor the patient’s movements, to include tremors.
Sources: ACS Nano
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