Ever wanted to glance at your arm and see not a watch, but the time displayed right there on your wrist, alongside an illuminated read-out of your health and a glittering tattoo? A team from the University of Illinois has taken a step in that direction with the creation of tiny LED arrays that can be implanted beneath the skin to show the condition of wounds or deliver cancer-beating dugs.
The band of intrepid scientists has published details of miniscule LED arrays measuring 2.5-micrometres thick and 100x100-micrometres square. That's slightly less than the thickness of a yeast cell, while the surface area is the length of a dust particle on one side and the same length as the thickness of a coat of paint on the other. The array is encased in silicon and rubber which will bend and flex, making it waterproof and safe to implant beneath the skin.
The LEDs can show the status of a healing wound and indicate complications. We think they should be programmed to tweet how well you're healing while they're at it. They'll also be useful for photodynamic drug therapy, a technique that involves injecting light-absorbing chemicals into cancer tumours and exposing them to light, triggering cancer-busting oxygen radicals. The sub-dermal LEDs could be remotely controlled to light up when required, sending oxygen radicals into specific infected areas.
If you're lucky enough to be in the best of health, we have two words for you: light-up tattoos. Not only would they look the business when you're sippin' bub in the dark of the club, they'd be like the mullet of tattoos: business at the front -- invisible beneath the skin -- and party at the back -- leave work and light 'em up.
Thus far, the team from the University of Illinois has only gone so far as implanting the LEDs in a rubber glove and doing some washing up. But our imaginations are running riot at the possibilities: a watch in your wrist, TV in your torso, nightlights in your nipples...
Would you like to light up like an extra from Tron when your lumbago plays up, or does the idea make your skin crawl? Let us know in the comments section below.