Photo of thermal imaging tattoos Humans have been using the same tattooing technologies for thousands of years. It's time for an upgrade. Our lab is re-thinking the tattoo pigment as a way to permanently embed new technologies in the skin. The Laboratory for emergent Nanomaterials is formulating tattoo inks that conduct electricity and change color in response to different stimuli. They hope to use these "tech tattoos" to power biomedical devices and wearable technologies, monitor and diagnose health issues, and augment human sensing and self-expression.

Image: Thermal storage tattoo. Colorless, almost invisible. Stores thermal energy when it is warm, releases that thermal energy before it gets cold. The particles in these tattoos stay warm for a while when they are put in a cold environment; the idea is that they could help you feel warm when you go outside in the cold. The top image is a regular photograph of these tattoos on fake skin (all contrast comes from differences in visible colors) and the bottom image is an IR photograph (all contrast comes from differences in temperature) of the same tattoos on a freezing winter day in Colorado. You can see from the temperature scale that the tattoos are much warmer than the rest of the fake skin.

 Laboratory for Emergent Nanomaterials