Industrial Ink: Tattoo Ink Technology for Health Monitoring

You may not consider tattoo ink to be industrial ink, but it is and changes in it affects the industrial ink market. MIT and Harvard researchers have developed ‘smart tattoo ink’ that could revolutionize the health industry.

This ink is designed to change colors, which identify problems like dehydration in sports athletes or blood sugar fluctuations for diabetics. The possibilities could be endless in a short time as this research and studies continue.

Who are the players?

The players in this medical research include Xin Liu, Katia Vega, Nick Barry, and Viirj Kan from MIT and Nan Jiang and Ali Yetisen from Harvard Medical.

This project is a biosensitive ink project being referred to as Dermal Abyss. It means that the ink’s interactions with the skin’s surface can possibly produce an interactive display solution to help monitor various health conditions.

How is it made?

Conventional industrial ink replaced by color-changing biological sensors. The pH sensor changed from purple to pink and the glucose sensor changed between blue to brown. There is also a sodium and another pH sensor that is readable under UV light.

The team used pig skin to test the ink’s effectiveness and observed the ink and how it changed color and intensity in a response to various biomarkers. The glucose color-changing ink is particularly important since it may help eliminate the need for diabetics to prick their fingers or draw blood to check their glucose levels throughout the day. This kind of health monitoring ink could change the game for people with diabetes.

What are other benefits?

Besides being an innovative game changer for athletes and diabetics, this industrial color-changing tattoo ink eliminates the issue of battery life for current blood sugar testing devices. It also eliminates wireless technology problems of systems that require WIFI to connect and monitor blood sugar.

What are some drawbacks?

Just like all things in life, there are also challenges that need to be addressed and resolved before this new ink technology can move forward. For instance, there is no way to ensure that the ink won’t fade in time or disperse under the skin.

How does color-changing ink work?

The body’s own chemistry changes are what makes this ink work. The color change is a response to biological chemical changes in the human body. One example is that the glucose color sensor changes from green to brown when glucose levels rise. That could be a huge help to diabetics.

The Future of the Dermal Abyss Project

While the potential for this kind of industrial ink could impact a wide range of applications, the Dermal Abyss project is currently and exclusively a research project. They have no current plans to develop the biosensor ink into a health monitoring product, or to even move forward with clinical trials. The primary reason for this research was to brainstorm to create ideas and learn the potential of this kind of ink technology.

The researchers do believe that this technology could eventually become a reality and help with monitoring chronic health conditions and temporary tattoo designs to aid in short-term monitoring. They are discussing how this could be useful for astronauts to monitor their health in space.