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Electronics ‘like a second skin’ make wearables more practical and MRIs safer for kids

A UC Berkeley physicist is using printers with high-tech inks to make a new generation of medical devices, from wearables to MRI hardware for children.

BERKELEY, Calif. — She’s a physicist who trained in the storied lab where Watson and Crick worked out the structure of DNA. In her years in industry, she made sharper displays for e-readers, more efficient solar panels, and sensor tape that soldiers could wear on the battlefield to measure the strength of explosions.

Her manufacturing tool of choice: a simple printer.

Ana Claudia Arias is an expert in the field of low-cost printable electronics. Now at the University of California, Berkeley, she’s focused on using printers loaded with a variety of high-tech inks to make a new generation of medical devices, from wearables to barely noticeable MRI hardware for kids.

“Our dream is to have electronics in things like this,” she said, holding out a piece of plastic mesh so soft it felt like cloth.

Arias doesn’t wear a Fitbit. Why would she? To her, they’re bulky, unattractive and, most annoyingly, have to be recharged all the time.

Instead, in a

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