Edible batteries in 3D printed cases may someday power ingestible devices which could treat diseases and diagnose patients.
Edible electronics aren’t on the menu yet, but this might change. This crazy sounding idea comes straight from the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) where researchers said they’re already working on the battery. This could be used sensors or to power nano medication devices, that work from within your body.
The development of the edible battery is led by Christopher Bettinger, PhD, of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). He and his and colleagues presented research on the new battery.
It is held in a 3D printed case which is made from a gelatin material called polylactic acid (PLA, but not the one you usually print with). The batteries themselves are made with melanin pigments, which can be found in your eyes, skin and hair.
Bettinger said he and his group were aiming to focus on using materials which are biocompatible and biodegradable. He said at an ACS news briefing: “We’ve basically one by one replaced the potentially toxic components of a battery with that of benign endogenous materials within the human body.”
Watch the group talk about their new idea in the video taken at the American Chemical Society meeting below.
Risks and Uses for the Edible Batteries
Currently, ingestible devices are only designed for one use. With the idea of using a battery to treat a disease, there would be a higher risk for the patient.
Bettinger said in a statement: “If you want to take a device every day, you have to think about toxicity issues. That’s when we have to think about biologically derived materials that could replace some of these things you might find in a Radio Shack.”
The battery created by Bettinger could power either a sensing device or a drug delivery. When asked about whether the capsule could go wrong, Bettinger said: “same kind of pigments that we use are actually the same kind of pigments you find in squid ink pasta. So if you’ve ever had squid ink pasta, you’ve already consumed more melanin than that is in the battery.”
We think we’ll have to trust the researcher, as when asked whether he’d sampled the battery, he said: “I actually have. I am still here, still cogent.”
Speaking about the benefits of this technology, he added: “I think there’s an interesting thread wrapped into that question on the invasiveness. I have never in my career tested an implantable material on myself, but I have an ingestible. I think that speaks to compliance with oral medications and oral systems as opposed to implantable devices.”
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