A team of scientists created a circuit board flexible enough that wrap around tissues. They become soft when implanted inside the body and can deploy to grip 3-D objects, such as large tissues, nerves and blood vessels.
The biologically adaptive, flexible transistors, from researchers of University of Texas at Dallas, might one day help doctors learn more about what is happening inside the body.
Jonathan Reeder BS’12, a graduate student in materials science and engineering and lead author of the work, said:
“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.”
Shape memory polymers developed by Dr. Walter Voit, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering and an author of the paper, are key to enabling the technology. He said:
“We used a new technique in our field to essentially laminate and cure the shape memory polymers on top of the transistors. In our device design, we are getting closer to the size and stiffness of precision biologic structures, but have a long way to go to match nature’s amazing complexity, function and organization.”
Reeder team from the Advanced Polymer Research Lab, said:
“Flexible electronics today are deposited on plastic that stays the same shape and stiffness the whole time. Our research comes from a different angle and demonstrates that we can engineer a device to change shape in a more biologically compatible way.”