MIT Scientists Created Living Tattoos That Can Light Up

Scientists from the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology have just published a research study in the journal Advanced Materials where they describe a new invention: a “living tattoo.”

It is a sort of temporary tattoo that is amazing because the ink is actually alive.  The good interesting about this is that the living ink can be programmed to be brighter depending on the environment, like a biological dimmer switch.

This sounds like it is purely for aesthetics, but there are many useful things that can be done with this new technology.

The research was carried out jointly by Professor Xuanhe Zhao and Professor Timothy Lu. What they and their graduate students have created is a thin layer, almost like a see-through sticker, with a picture of a multi-colored tree on it.

The sticker can then be put on the body. The tree is made of living ink, which has inside of it bacteria. This sounds gross, but these are actually good bacteria, that do not cause any harm whatsoever to the human body. They are in there because they have an interesting property.

The bacteria in the ink can respond to different stimuli. For example, if someone with this tattoo jumps in a pool, and the pH balance is off, a person without this “tattoo” might not be able to tell, but with it, one of the colorful branches of the tree would light up, signaling that the pH is not suitable for swimming.

The other branches of the tree might respond to temperature differences, which may act as a sort of thermometer for the wearer.

This technology has a long way to go, but this is a huge advancement. Previous attempts to make a living tattoo with living ink failed because different kinds of cells were used, rather than bacterial cells.

They found that those ruptured too easily and killed the ink. Soon, you might be getting these “tattoos” at your local mall.