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This Hydrogel Could Be the Smart Bandage of the Future

posted: 12/08/15
by: Danny Clemens
MIT hydrogel bandage
Melanie Gonick/MIT

Forget brittle fabric bandages -- a flexible, water-based material could be the next big thing in first aid.

Designed by MIT researchers, the hydrogel bandage is capable of incorporating advanced technology -- like temperature sensors, LED lights, drug-delivery systems and semiconductor chips -- into a historically simple product.

The rubbery hydrogel is comprised of biopolymers mixed with a small amount of water. The resulting product has a stiffness comparable to soft human tissue, and can effectively adhere even to irregularly shaped parts of the body, like the knee, ankle and elbow.

In addition to human skin, the gel can bond to a variety of nonporous surfaces, including titanium, glass and ceramic.


"Electronics are usually hard and dry, but the human body is soft and wet. These two systems have drastically different properties," designer Xuanhe Zhao explains in a news release.

"If you want to put electronics in close contact with the human body for applications such as health care monitoring and drug delivery, it is highly desirable to make the electronic devices soft and stretchable to fit the environment of the human body. That's the motivation for stretchable hydrogel electronics."

Related: Having a Big Brain Doesn't Make You Smarter

Zhao's research, funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, and the National Science Foundation, is detailed in the journal Advanced Materials.

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