Epidermal photonic devices for quantitative imaging of temperature and thermal transport characteristics of the skin

Nat Commun. 2014 Sep 19;5:4938. doi: 10.1038/ncomms5938.


Characterization of temperature and thermal transport properties of the skin can yield important information of relevance to both clinical medicine and basic research in skin physiology. Here we introduce an ultrathin, compliant skin-like, or 'epidermal', photonic device that combines colorimetric temperature indicators with wireless stretchable electronics for thermal measurements when softly laminated on the skin surface. The sensors exploit thermochromic liquid crystals patterned into large-scale, pixelated arrays on thin elastomeric substrates; the electronics provide means for controlled, local heating by radio frequency signals. Algorithms for extracting patterns of colour recorded from these devices with a digital camera and computational tools for relating the results to underlying thermal processes near the skin surface lend quantitative value to the resulting data. Application examples include non-invasive spatial mapping of skin temperature with milli-Kelvin precision (±50 mK) and sub-millimetre spatial resolution. Demonstrations in reactive hyperaemia assessments of blood flow and hydration analysis establish relevance to cardiovascular health and skin care, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Calibration
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Diffusion
  • Elastomers
  • Epidermis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nanotechnology
  • Photons
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin Temperature*


  • Elastomers