Home Gadget World You Can Swallow This Battery – A Smart Capsule

You Can Swallow This Battery – A Smart Capsule

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Researchers have developed a new ingestible battery that could one day
power internal medical devices. And they’re hoping their creation, which
is made with melanin pigments found in the skin, hair, and eyes,
could solve a chicken-and-egg problem for ingestible medical devices.

“For decades, people have been envisioning that one day, we would
have edible electronic devices to diagnose or treat disease,” says
Christopher Bettinger, who headed up the team of researchers at Carnegie
Mellon. “But 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 RadioShack.”

Melanin absorbs
ultraviolet light, as any fair-skinned person with a sunburn will
ruefully tell you. It also happens to bind metallic ions together. It
struck Bettinger and his team that this quality could be harnessed for a
battery. They experimented with melanin at positive and negative
terminals and with conductive materials like iron and copper. It worked.

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The
batteries have relatively low amounts of power, especially when
compared to your standard-issue lithium-ion. One of these ingestibles
can power a 5 milliWatt device (or, 0.005 of a watt) for up to 18 hours
using 600 milligrams of active melanin material. The team is also making
batteries out of pectin, a plant compound used as a gelling agent in
jams and jellies.
Swallowed
batteries could provide the energy needed for a time-release vaccine or
for sensing for micro-bacterial changes in the gut. No word if it could
power a tiny ship attempting to recover secrets lost in a scientist’s brain.

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