Italy’s first fully edible rechargeable battery can power low-energy ingestible electronics and biodegradable sensors without causing immune system response or bowel obstruction.

The edible battery uses non-toxic ingredients like nori, beeswax encapsulation, and a water-based electrolyte with vitamin B2, quercetin, and activated charcoal to promote biochemical reactions and provide recharging for IoT devices.

What obstacles do ingestible electronics provide, what did the researchers produce, and how may they affect the future?

Ingestible electronics face what challenges?

Smart pills, or ingestible electronics, are promising healthcare technologies. However, ingestible electronics research and implementation present safety issues that must be addressed.

Ingestible electronics must be biocompatible to avoid autoimmune reactions from live tissue. An ingestible gadget must be built from physiologically inert materials like particular grades of glass and unreactive metals like gold and titanium. The immune system reacts to non-biological foreign objects in the body. Due to their inability to break down, such items might cause deadly fever and infection.

Chemicals in ingestible electronics provide another safety risk. Leaked substances from these devices may be hazardous or harmful. Ingestible electronics made with lead or other heavy metals can poison the body, but the consequences don’t appear immediately.

Ingestible electronics may induce intestinal blockage or other issues. Devices must be engineered to travel through the digestive system without becoming stuck or damaging the gastrointestinal tract. Blockages can soon cause impaction, which can cause major health issues if left untreated.

Researchers create the first edible rechargeable battery.

The Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), led by Ivan K. Ilic and including Valerio Galli, Leonardo Lamanna, Pietro Cataldi, Lea Pasquale, Valerio F. Annese, Athanassia Athanassiou, and Mario Caironi, demonstrated the world’s first edible rechargeable battery in their groundbreaking study “An Edible Rechargeable Battery” published on March 15, 2023. This new battery is safe to swallow, thus ingestible gadgets that break down within the body will not hurt the body.

The researchers found biological interactions in almonds, sushi, and capers to manufacture the battery. Almond vitamin B2 and caper quercetin were used as anodes and cathodes in this novel battery. A water-based electrolyte and activated charcoal increased electrical conductivity. Finally, the electrodes were encased in beeswax and separated with sushi nori.

The edible battery can power low-energy circuits with 48uA for 10 minutes or 1uA for one hour at 0.65V, which is low enough to avoid digestive tract harm. No other edible battery can recharge. “The full battery demonstrated a discharging plateau at 0.655 V and capacity of up to 7.2 mAh g−1,” and “In addition, the battery can be recharged, something that no other edible battery has yet managed.”

How may this technology benefit future electronics?

Edible batteries are most commonly used in ingestible devices. Unlike other battery technologies, edible batteries pose no risk of leakage within the body. After scanning the esophagus and stomach, ingestible devices might disintegrate.

This battery can recharge, but ingestible gadgets cannot. This battery might aid other devices, such as short-lived biodegradable sensors placed at scale in wild settings. This battery may enable low-energy IoT devices with a switch-mode power supply and energy harvester, and its safe breakdown makes it non-toxic to animals that may consume it.

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