Our generation grew up stuck on Band-Aid brand, cuz Band-Aids were stuck on us. But the Band-Aid of the future is, as you might expect, futuristic, and not a Band-Aid at all. Developed by a group of insanely innovative scientists at MIT, the bandages of the future are made out of hydrogel (it's a material that's 90 percent water but in a gel form) and hold a collection of programmable sensors and electronics. Gone will be the "ouch!" days of removing that adhesive strip thanks to the newly updated soft and moist material used to mimic the texture of our skin.
The new bandages will serve a multitude of functions and capabilities, from administering medication and assessing body temperature to treating injuries. Hydrogel alone has been used to dress wounds since the 1950s, it's an incredibly simple construction of polymer networks that have been infiltrated with water. Its moisturizing nature can help soothe and speed up the recovery process for open wounds and other surface injuries. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense — the water based gel is cool to the touch, which provides a cooling, pain-reducing relief to surface wounds. And, because the material is not adhesive, it's much easier to remove, which in turn reduces additional irritation that can be caused in dressing changes.
Smart bandage creator and MIT professor, Xuanhe Zhao, says that the mentality behind the invention of the product was to maximize the humanity of the electronic device. By embedding sensors electronics into a skin-like material, as opposed to a dry and cold material, it becomes a much less intimidating product of the future. That, and it looks a lot like a late '90s Nickelodeon-themed toy you might get for Christmas and forget about and then find it hard and darker somewhere years later. If you told me back in the late '90s that the future of Band-Aids was a electronic piece of Gak, I'd be super stoked and incredulous.
Zhao and his team are really stoked about this medical advance they're spearheading, but as with any scientific innovators, they're already on and to the next — because science waits for no one! Why stop at the skin's surface, if hydrogel can attach itself to all human tissue? Zhao goes on to say:
We want to explore implantable hydrogel based devices in the body for long-term, high efficacy human electronic interfaces.
Yes, that's right — the hydrogel material has the capability to bond with internal human tissue, as well. Oh, the possibilities are so endless it makes my head spin. Will we be walking around with electronic Gak holding our insides together?
Watch Zhao excitedly explain his team's invention and future objectives here: