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Biological systems are mechanically soft, with complex, time-dependent 3D curvilinear shapes; modern electronic technologies are rigid, with simple, static 2D layouts. Eliminating these profound differences in properties will create vast opportunities in man-made devices that can intimately integrate into and onto the human body, for diagnostic, therapeutic or surgical function with important, unique capabilities in biomedical research and clinical healthcare. Over the last decade, a convergence of new concepts in materials science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and advanced manufacturing has led to the emergence of diverse, novel classes of ‘biocompatible’ electronic systems designed to interface to living organisms. This talk describes the key ideas and enabling materials, with an emphasis on functional devices that take the form of (1) soft, thin membranes that laminate onto organ surfaces, (2) hair-like needle structures that penetrate into the depths of tissues, (3) bioresorbable, or ‘transient’, devices that disappear into the body on timescales matched to natural processes and (4) open, three dimensional network architectures that interface with biology across large volumes. Examples of clinically oriented activities built on the most mature of these technologies will be included.

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