Newly 3D print-produced ink may be used as a tattoo, study says

“These 3D-printed devices are extremely elastomeric and can be compressed, bent, or twisted without breaking,” said Kaivalya Deo, a graduate student in the biomedical engineering department and lead author of the paper. “In addition, these devices are electronically active, enabling them to monitor dynamic human motion and paving the way for continuous motion monitoring,” he also told.

This project is in collaboration with Dr. Anthony Guiseppi-Elie, vice president of academic affairs and workforce development at Tri-County Technical College in South Carolina, and Dr. Limei Tian, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Texas A&M.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the Texas A&M University President’s Excellence Fund. A provisional patent on this technology has been filed in association with the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.

Study abstract:

Flexible electronics require elastomeric and conductive biointerfaces with native tissue-like mechanical properties. The conventional approaches to engineer such a biointerface often utilize conductive nanomaterials in combination with polymeric hydrogels that are cross-linked using toxic photoinitiators. Moreover, these systems frequently demonstrate poor biocompatibility and face trade-offs between conductivity and mechanical stiffness under physiological conditions. To address these challenges, we developed a class of shear-thinning hydrogels as biomaterial inks for 3D printing flexible bioelectronics. These hydrogels are engineered through a facile vacancy-driven gelation of MoS2 nanoassemblies with naturally derived polymer-thiolated gelatin. Due to shear-thinning properties, these nanoengineered hydrogels can be printed into complex shapes that can respond to mechanical deformation. The chemically cross-linked nanoengineered hydrogels demonstrate a 20-fold rise in compressive moduli and can withstand up to 80% strain without permanent deformation, meeting human anatomical flexibility. The nanoengineered network exhibits high conductivity, compressive modulus, pseudocapacitance, and biocompatibility. The 3D-printed cross-linked structure demonstrates excellent strain sensitivity and can be used as wearable electronics to detect various motion dynamics. Overall, the results suggest that these nanoengineered hydrogels offer improved mechanical, electronic, and biological characteristics for various emerging biomedical applications including 3D-printed flexible biosensors, actuators, optoelectronics, and therapeutic delivery devices.

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