Electronic patch could monitor your body for infection

It’s like something out of “Star Trek.”

A group of scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois have teamed up to design an electronic patch that you wear on your skin to measure your temperature, a marker of many subtle changes within your body.

The patch, which is made of plastic and liquid crystals, can stick to you like a Band-Aid, said John Rogers, one of the University of Illinois researchers involved in its development. After you put it on, you can use a cellphone app to activate your phone’s camera and reveal the patch changing colors — showing what looks like a heat map.

“A color change tied to the temperature of the surface of the skin allows us to measure very subtle and precise changes in temperature,” Rogers said.

Changes in temperature can indicate how well blood is circulating in the body, if a wound is becoming infected, or how much you are sweating during your workout, said Rogers.

You can collect information as long as you wear the patch and then print it out for your doctor’s easy reading.

But besides being a useful collector of data for your doctor, Rogers envisions the patch being used during workouts or outdoor activities.

Rogers’ team is looking at whether it can be used to measure ultraviolet radiation from the sun. If used while you are out on the beach, the patch could remind you when it’s time to reapply sunscreen.

If worn while you work out, the patch may be able to measure your skin hydration, how much you sweat and even the chemistry of your sweat, Rogers said.

It would be “something you could throw away after you worked out,” Rogers said, so as the researchers look towards manufacturing the patch they hope to keep the cost as little as a few dollars.

The scientists are working with a Massachusetts company to manufacture the patch, and Rogers said he hopes to see it available for purchase within three years.