Aug 24, 2016 | By Tess

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are developing innovative biocompatible batteries, which could open up the doors for future ingestible medical devices and help to revolutionize treatments for diseases such as cancer. The biocompatible, non-toxic, and edible batteries are being made from naturally occurring melanin pigments (such as those found in our skin, eyes, and hair) and are being housed in 3D printed capsules. The research, which is being led by Christopher Bettinger, PhD was recently presented at the 252nd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

The innovative ingestible batteries are a prime example of how the field of medicine is advancing towards more effective and targeted treatments. As Bettinger explains, “For decades, people have been envisioning that one day, we would have edible electronic devices to diagnose or treat disease. 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.”

Of course, as one can imagine putting an actual battery into a body comes with a high level of risk, which is why pacemaker batteries are housed in an insulated, sequestered environment, and why ingestible cameras has so far only been made for single-use purposes (that’s right, meaning they are excreted out of the body). Considering this, the development of bio-degradable and non-toxic ingestible batteries could be a key part of opening up the potentials for low-power, repeat applications for such things as drug-delivery devices.

Melanin pigment

To develop such an ingestible battery, the Carnegie Mellon team has been working with naturally occurring melanins and other organic compounds. Melanin, which absorbs ultraviolet light to protect us, and binds and unbinds metallic ions, essentially does what a battery does, which inspired the scientists to investigate its potentials. As Bettinger expressed: “We thought, this is basically a battery.”

Once they realized this, the scientists got to work designing different battery prototypes that use melanin pigments at either the positive of negative terminals, different electrode materials (like manganese oxide and sodium titanium phosphate), and cations like copper and iron which also occur naturally in the body. After experimenting, the scientists found that they could efficiently power a 5 milliWatt device for up to 18 hours using 600 milligrams of active melanin as a cathode. So, while the battery power is relatively low, it would still be enough to power an ingestible drug-delivery system.

In addition to the melanin-based batteries, the team is also working to devise a pectin based battery. Pectin, for those unfamiliar, is a naturally occurring gelling compound that is derived from plants and is often used in the production of jams and jellies. As mentioned, the scientists are currently using 3D printers to create the housing capsules for the batteries, which are essentially swallowable capsules made from PLA plastic.

While there is no word on when the non-toxic ingestible batteries will be finalized and even brought to market, the research certainly marks a big step forward for the development of new targeted and safer treatment processes.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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Anon wrote at 8/24/2016 11:25:55 PM:

Indigestible...

anonymous wrote at 8/24/2016 8:49:05 PM:

Edible batteries... Symptoms may include irritable bowel syndrome, loose stools and sudden bursts of blue flames. Please do not use while smoking.



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