e-ink tattoo

edited November 2015 in Everything else
I had this idea and since I'm unable to pursue it I will post here. Maybe somebody will get ideas from it.

tl;dr Make a tattoo using e-ink and place a display under it.

For the ones who don't know this is how e-ink works

So you buy a e-ink device, extract e-ink from it (or buy e-ink if you can). You obtain microscopic capsules filled with e-ink. You coat your capsules (or don't, maybe it is not necessary) and tattoo a filled rectangle on your skin. Then you take a e-ink device, remove the layer containing e-ink, coat it and put it under the part of you skin containing the tattoo. Now you have a changeable tattoo.
Most e-ink devices use elctrodes under and above the e-ink layer, but some use only below.

A quick search gave me many small devices:

Since most people prefer estethic body mods, this can bring more people to have a computer under their skin. And more features will be added to such a computer.

So is there an obvious blunder I'm overlooking? What do you think of feasibility of a similar idea?



  • E-ink is very much like those erasable whiteboards you had as a kid that you drew on with a magnetic pen.

    It only works because of two things: first, you have a way to generate a field only on one pixel and two, you have a thin layer of e-ink that cannot move, it is bound in place.

    You wouldn't be able to extract a meaningful amount of ink from a display like you're thinking.
  • Basicaly what you do is increase the distance between the field generator and capsules. The image would get blurry with distance the resolution of the end tattoo will be low.

    I'm not sure if it is possible to buy microcapsules with eink but here is an article with instructions on how they make them:
  • im working on a color changing ink that responds to a magnetic field but that's about as close as you'll get with something like this. Also you wouldn't be able to really see anything through your skin without a substantial backlight

  • The idea is that the e-ink is in the same place as ink from normal tattoos. So it would be visibile just the same.

    Magnetic bistate ink. You pass a magnet over you hand and can switch between teo different tattoos. Cool.
  • Is this e-ink suitable for any kind of tattoos? Any styles?
    I know that not every regular ink goes for all styles and types of drawings.
    This tattoo requires working with liight and shadows, with gradients and bright colors. And how does e-ink fade? Or it doesn't?
    And what about infections? It tattoo treatment with e-ink the same as with usual ink?
  • I'm joining for these questions above. Is e-ink suitable for colorful tattoos? I'm thinking of getting a new tattoo, it will be flowers and I'm scared to have any infections (my friend had it lately). What about these sketches? http://flowertattooideas.com/rose-tattoo-on-shoulder-girls/ I want to choose some of them (well, maybe 23 or 35)...image
  • Unfortunately none of this is possible, Tattoo's just don't work that way. Tattoo ink's nowadays are all vegan safe, meaning you could drink the stuff. And to create any retroactive shielding between your skin and the ink itself would require extensive work. Also i should mention the high potential for rejection "some people can't even handle certain pigments". Tattoo science is actually still in its infancy. Japan has some of the foremost leading theories in the field. But This is to far beyond modern means to accomplish. I would have to say changing the position of the ink in your skin through magnetic means would be  incredibly painful. Some tattoos have been found to permeate beyond the facia into muscle and bone.
  • edited January 2018
    Sorry to revive this but I have a question.

    Since you just need an electrode sheet, couldn't you first have a regular tattoo made using e-ink, then have the sheet implanted under it?

    Since e-ink is literally charged ink inside of a microcapsule it should be just as visible as any other tattoo. I could see it even being theoretically "safer" than regular ink because it's encapsulated. It also wouldnt need to physically move in your skin, only to shift in the capsule (black up for visible, down for hidden).

    I'm not talking about anything crazy like programmable tattoos, just one you can turn "on and off." Isn't this theoretically possible right now? The only "difficult" part I see would be coating the electrode and making sure it's flexible enough to not cause any issues.
  • Honestly I think you'd be better off just dropping the whole tattoo idea and implanting a flexible e-ink display. That would then bring us to the issues of powering, charging, etc... All things that will eventually be options, but they're things we still have to work the kinks out of/wait for technology to progress a little more.

  • I think you're over thinking it. If you just want to be able to turn it off and on, there is no need to implant the display. You could just touch it to the tattoo and go. I'm off course assuming the field generated is strong enough to reach the injected ink, I can't think of a reason it shouldn't work.
  • @Ironalex, Exactly what I was thinking! I have no idea where/how to get just the electronic ink without it being in a device
  • Is it painful?

  • I love the idea. Aesthetic mods are my favorites, and this would require no internal power source and gets around just about everything currently holding us back from our more advanced designs.

    However, as a tattoo, there are some serious health concerns that would involve. I considered this a while back, and attempted to find information about the materials used in the production of the micro-capsules. Eink wont give out msds or any tech information, but on the patent they filed (which was admittedly two decades ago, but is still a very cost efficient method and likely still in use) they suggested use of several components that would not be body safe.

    The Eink micro-capsules are charged white spheres (possibly inside a reflective sphere), oppositely charged black spheres, and an un-described electrophoretic clear liquid, inside another sphere.
    -Production of the white spheres is suggested through use of Polyethylene, and TiO2 (which is classified as potentially carcinogenic to humans, and has been proven to be carcinogenic to rats. It has this low danger rating because..well it could only really be dangerous as nano-particles, and would have to be inhaled or make it through the skin, which is very unlikely, but is also the exact situation you would be creating).
    -The reflective sphere suggested to surround the TiO2 sphere is to be made of some form of glass (which likely isn't rated to withstand much as the Eink is usually protected in displays, and would basically be fiberglass and likely rejected if the other sphere breaks and this is exposed to skin) or aluminum.
    -The black spheres are described only as a negatively charged particle mixed with molten Polyethylene.
    -It is suggested that BOTH charged internal sphere types may have a radioactive particle added to keep the spheres perpetually charged.
    -The outer sphere is described as needing to be electrophoretic, and durable (yay), however the authors strongly suggest creation using a Urea(Irritant, can cause dermatitis)/Formaldehyde (Irritant, carcinogen) co-polymer.

    They also describe the possibility of using liquid only components, but according to the companies website, they do not use this.

    Here is the link to the patent: https://patents.google.com/patent/US5961804A/en

    I ended my plans for the project after this, as I do not see an implantable Eink display or film being practical with the limited visibility that Eink already has.

    If anyone does decide to pursue this as a tattoo, layers of coating or additional micro-encapsulation would definitely be recommended.

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