Advancements in electronic technology for monitoring and treating our health from within the body are ongoing. However, powering these small medical devices can be a challenging task.
A new type of rechargeable battery has been developed that can potentially solve the issue of powering medical devices inside the body. The battery is made from fully edible substances and can safely dissolve in the stomach after its use.
According to a recent study, the prototype of this battery operates at a harmless 0.65 volts and provides a current of 48 microamperes for 12 minutes, which is sufficient to power tiny electronics.
This edible battery has diverse potential applications, including the development of circuits and sensors for health condition monitoring, as well as powering sensors that monitor food storage conditions.. Additionally, due to the high level of safety, these batteries could also be utilized in children’s toys, where there is a high risk of ingestion, as per senior author Mario Caironi, a molecular electronics researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology.
The rechargeable battery, which can be consumed as a snack, is composed of a diverse list of ingredients. It is the first of its kind to be both functional and edible. The battery’s components consist of riboflavin, a vitamin, which functions as the anode (or ‘negative’ end), and quercetin, a supplement, serving as the cathode (or ‘positive’ end). The battery’s electrolyte, responsible for generating the electrical charge, is made from a water-based solution. Meanwhile, the separator, which prevents short circuits, is composed of nori, the seaweed commonly used in sushi restaurants..
To enhance the battery’s electrical conductivity, activated charcoal is added, which is commonly used for treating poisonings. The external contacts, responsible for transferring electricity to other devices, are made of beeswax and decorated with food-grade gold.
While it may not be a culinary masterpiece, the potential of the new edible battery is significant. It can maintain its charge for many cycles, although it needs to be outside the body for recharging. Currently, the prototype has a size of approximately one square centimeter (0.155 square inches), but the researchers are actively working on making it smaller..
Caironi explains that they are already creating devices with higher capacity and smaller overall size, which they plan to test in the future for powering edible soft robots.
The edible battery could also be useful in improving medical procedures, such as uncomfortable scans involving the insertion of cameras or other devices into the body for disease detection.
The edible battery could have significant applications in food quality monitoring by allowing devices to check the safety and standards of food in the gut before being digested along with the food. Although it may take some time for these developments to be realized, the researchers behind the prototype hope that their work will pave the way for advancements in the field, such as larger batteries for energy storage and electric cars.
“While our edible batteries may not be suitable for powering electric cars, they prove that safer materials than current Li-ion batteries can be used to make batteries,” states Ivan Ilic, a co-author of the study and a sustainable energy storage scientist at the Italian Institute of Technology. The researchers behind the study aim to inspire other scientists to create safer batteries for a sustainable future. The study’s findings have been published in the journal Advanced Materials.
The results of the study have been published in Advanced Materials.
In summary, scientists have developed a prototype of an edible battery made of fully edible substances that can safely dissolve in the stomach after use. With its potential application in health monitoring and food quality control, the battery could improve medical procedures and enhance food safety. While the current prototype is relatively small, researchers are working towards miniaturizing it further and increasing its capacity for future applications. Additionally, this development could inspire other scientists to create safer batteries for a sustainable future. Overall, this innovation highlights the potential of using edible materials for creating safe and sustainable energy storage solutions.