Edible Batteries Any One?

Carnegie Mellon is researching biodegradable battery technology to power up new kinds of ingestible medical devices.


Pigging out on a battery doesn’t sound all that appetizing. But what if the battery were biodegradable and could enable some real sci-fi use cases, such as powering up a pill that automatically adjusts dosage or another that does exploratory work and communicates its finding to your doctor?

Such out-there innovations aren’t so out there any more, but one of the big holdups has been figuring out a way to make ingestible power sources safe for human consumption. According to an article in Popular Science, a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have made big strides toward that goal. Apparently, they’ve developed a battery made out of melanin, a natural pigment found in our skin, hair, and eyes, that also happens to conduct a chemical process around binding and unbinding metallic ions that’s crucial to battery function.

Even more surprising for some folks may be that ingestible batteries have been around for a while. The key difference with this effort? The predecessors were not biodegradable, so they needed to be properly excreted (let’s not go there) or otherwise could cause harm. In addition to the melanin, the Carnegie Mellon team is looking at other biodegradable materials as part of its research.

Can someone pass the salt, please?

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