Biochips -- flexible, disposable plastic circuits that "compute" via chemical reaction -- have been nearing reality for over a decade, but for obvious reasons
we don't always pay attention. German research institute Fraunhofer IZM
has just convinced us it's high time we did. This week, the organization announced that it's on the verge of creating a lab-on-a-chip that can diagnose deep vein thrombosis from a single drop of blood, as well as a wristband that can measure body temperature, skin moisture and electromagnetic radiation using plastic chips and sensors only micrometers thick. Impressive, yes, but the real news is the production process -- these gadgets can be printed in reels and sheets
. The organization imagines the tools will be so cheap they'll be disposable; rather than wait for lab results, worried individuals will just take one out, test and toss to feel confident about their bloodwork, before hopefully going back to their normal lives.