A flexible biodegradable battery just may be what the doctor ordered.
What happens when you forget a dose of medication your doctor has prescribed for a condition that relies on the timed delivery of your medicine? Enter the smart pill, a sensor-equipped capsule that you only need to take just once. The smart pill releases medicine on a schedule or as your body needs it. But what would power that pill? The answer is simple: an edible battery.
Obviously, creating smart pills with their own sensors to regulate medicine in the body is a great idea, but the challenge in using them comes with finding a safe power source. According to Carnegie Mellon biomedical engineer Christopher Bettinger,a flexible biodegradable battery just may be what the doctor ordered. Bettinger studied this possibility by using the melanin of a cuttlefish to create an anode for an edible battery. This particular sea creature can create up to 10 microamperes of electricity for anywhere from five to 24 hours. This makes the battery safe to swallow and doesn’t cause any side effects in the human body. And even better? This material is biodegradable and dissolves in the body once its mission is complete.
The uses of such a battery aren’t just limited to powering smart pills, though. Imagine those uncomfortable exams that involve a tiny camera being swallowed and later removed via surgery. What if the camera could be created from biodegradable material and powered by an edible battery? This takes the surgery requirement out of the equation, making for a much more comfortable patient. The edible battery could also be used in medical devices like pacemakers and implants that treat Alzheimers and other brain conditions. Currently, the only way to change the batteries in these implants is through surgery. The edible battery might reduce the amount of surgeries required as its use is less invasive.