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Mention getting a tattoo and your parents will probably get all concerned. However, if a Princeton researcher has his way they may soon be convincing you, to get one. But before you get all excited, this one is not to make you look super cool, but to prevent you from getting sick.
The teeth tattoo, which is actually a wireless sensor that can detect even small amounts of harmful bacteria and transmit the information to a medical practitioner, is the brainchild of a team of scientists led by the University's Assistant Professor, Mike McAlphine.
To create this magical diagnostic tool, the researchers begin with a small strip of Graphene - A one atom thick layer of carbon that is not only sticky, but also, super sensitive. They then add a layer of specially constructed peptides, that help attract any harmful bacteria in the mouth, onto the Graphene. Thanks to its super sticky surface, the bacteria get stuck, similar to the way things get stuck on Velcro. When the sensor detects their presence it alerts the selected doctor, who can then take appropriate action.
The best part is that installing the tattoo will be painless - The Graphene will simply be placed on a silk film made of proteins and then situated onto the surface of a tooth. As time goes by, the silk simply dissolves away, leaving the sticky wireless tattoo sensor firmly in place, on the tooth.
Given the fact that it takes only a few bacteria to cause illness, Mr. McAlphine believes that the earlier the doctor knows about their presence, the faster they can begin the cure. He believes that the teeth tattoo will be especially useful on battlefields, helping soldiers get diagnosed for infections from wounds, before the bacteria attack their entire body.
In addition to that the technology can also be modified for other uses - Like sticking the sensor on hospital IV tubes or shower curtains or stamped on to foods like chicken or beef that are known to carry E.Coli bacteria. In fact, the platform is so modifiable that it can be customized to detect almost anything biological.
The technology has been already been tested on many different items including, a cow's tooth and Mr. McAlphine is now looking for partners to help him commercialize this amazing invention. Meanwhile, his team and he have one final challenge - How to shrink the sensors so that they are small enough to fit on a human tooth!