I often say that wearable Health Tech devices will need to become “invisible” if people are to incorporate them into their daily lives. I generally mean that they must be self-sufficient, and require no more attention or fussing from the user than is required by a typical home thermostat or a wrist watch. But wearables could literally become almost invisible, using new technology.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed thin film sensors using graphene. Graphene is the modern miracle material: sheets made of pure carbon that is only one atom thick. It is an excellent conductor and is flexible. And in the form used in this experiment, it is 85% transparent. The scientists created “serpentine” devices that can stretch with the skin, by as much as 40% without breaking. These sensors can be applied directly to the skin, and are porous enough to allow the skin to breathe normally.

The devices are only durable enough to wear for a few hours when applied by themselves. If covered by a “liquid bandage,” the device can function for several days. This means that they may not be well suited for long-term use, but could be a valuable option for short-term diagnostic monitoring for heart, muscle, and brain activity as well as other biometric measures.