Scientists create tiny brain-scanning implants that dissolve completely after use

Brain activity is an important part of medical testing and diagnostics, but it isn’t always easy to measure. Complicated rigs and expensive machinery make ongoing brain monitoring unrealistic and inconvenient. On the other hand, temporary tech implants that record data while in the brain require added rounds of surgery to both implant and remove the tech. That’s why a team of neurosurgeons are developing tiny implant technology that can record brain activity for short periods of time, and then dissolve completely into the organic matter they are monitoring.

The team is composed of scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Each device needed to be minuscule in size, but also needed to pack in enough electric monitoring equipment to measure brain activity accurately. The sensors are composed mostly of polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) and silicone, which are the materials that allow the chips to dissolve after use. The devices made of these materials also transmit pressure and temperature readings, record vital signs, and store other brain activity measurements.

Pressure and temperature are key readings in the kind of brain monitoring that this device will eventually be able to perform. Patients with traumatic brain injuries don’t always show physical symptoms of internal damage. But pressure and temperature can be important indicators in identifying traumatic injuries before often fatal symptoms start to manifest. These devices are both small enough and accurate enough to be implanted in the brain for reliable monitoring, and their ability to dissolve safely and disappear from a patient’s system is hugely promising.

Doing away with the expensive equipment and the limited facilities of hardwired brain monitoring could be revolutionary for these kinds of traumatic injury patients. Testing so far has only taken place in a lab setting, dissolving the tech chips in a saline solution bath before implanting them in the brains of lab rats. In both cases, the sensors worked accurately and reliably until dissolving safely into their surroundings. Following the success of those preliminary tests, scientists are now prepared to implant the sensors in human patients for testing.

Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Photography

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.
Product Review

Spacious and intuitive, Samsung's Family Hub makes the case for the smart fridge

Samsung's 28-cubic-feet Family Hub fridge aims to not only keep your food cool, but also be the brains of your home via a large computer screen on the outside panel door. Just how smart is it?
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

Warm ski beanie instantly hardens into a head-protecting helmet upon impact

Wool hats are way more comfortable than hard helmets. You know what they're not? Safer. That could soon change, thanks to an innovative new ski beanie which instantly hardens upon impact.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…