Tattoos may take on another role within the healthcare industry. In the future, these tattoos could warn individuals of too much sun exposure and remind patients to take their medication.
By using intelligent ink and requiring a less invasive injection technique, researchers from the University of Twente have developed a micro-jet injection technology that doesn’t use needles. The technology utilizes an ultrafast liquid jet about as thick as a human hair, which penetrates the skin.
Today, about 44 million Europeans wear the classic ‘anchor’ tattoo on their body. Although largely accepted in society, the technique to get a tattoo poses many health risks. The process can be both painful and damaging to the skin. Additionally, needles have to be disposed of in a safe manner and some ink is even wasted. The alternative technique that David Fernández Rivas and his team are developing eliminates waste and is less detrimental to the skin.
In their research paper, the team compares their new approach to the classic needle technology on an artificial skin with high speed images.
The technique utilizes a laser that rapidly heats a fluid inside a microchannel on a glass chip. Heated above boiling point, a vapor bubble forms and grows, which pushes the liquid out at speeds of 360 km/h. The jet is then capable of going through human skin, but without the painful feeling of a needle.
“You don’t feel much of it, no more than a mosquito bite,” Fernandez Rivas says.
When comparing their research, the team found that the micro-jet consumes a smaller amount of energy, minimizes skin damage, and the overall injection efficiency is higher. Additionally, there is no risk of contaminated needles
The next steps in development of the microjet include expanding the microjet, since often multiple needles with different colors are used, and increasing the volume that can be delivered.
In addition, the researchers believe these methods could greatly impact the medical field. Today, tattoo-resembling techniques help cover scars and treat hair diseases. Now, this technique could also be used for other health-related areas pertaining to vaccinations and health sensors. Some potential applications could include adapting the ink to become light-sensitive or enabling it to respond to certain substances in a person’s skin or sweat. The future may very well be right on our skin with health-related tattoos.