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Scientists in Italy develop edible battery made of almonds for use in ingestible medical devices

Mario Caironi, Project Coordinator at the Italian Institute of Technology displays an edible battery made entirely from food products.
Mario Caironi, Project Coordinator at the Italian Institute of Technology displays an edible battery made entirely from food products. Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Euronews and Reuters
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The battery is made from food products like almonds, capers, activated charcoal, seaweed, gold leaf and beeswax that can be fully digested by the human body without health risks.

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And on the menu at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), an entirely edible battery.

Researchers in Milan have developed the rechargeable prototype out of common-place food stuffs with the hopes of revolutionising ingestible medical devices.

"The core of the device is represented by a couple of electrodes... To have it working we are using two materials, two molecules. For the anode, we are using riboflavin which is a vitamin we can find in almonds... and for the Cathode we are using quercetin. It’s sold as a food supplement and can be found in capers,” explained Mario Caironi, the coordinator of the project.

Potential applications

Ingestible devices like biosensors, cameras, and drug delivery systems already exist but typically cannot be digested by the human body. Therefore, if complications arise during the digestion process, surgical intervention can be required to remove the device.

The advantage of this gadget made from almonds, capers, activated charcoal, seaweed, gold leaf and beeswax, is that it can be digested completely without any health risks.

Other potential applications aside from health devices could include food quality monitoring and edible soft robotics.

The battery prototype operates at 0.65 volts, which is too low to cause problems inside the human body. It provides a current of 48 microamps for up to 12 minutes and can power a small LED or other miniature electronic devices.

The team is now working to boost capacity as well as shrink the device into a pill-sized container that would be easier to swallow.

The proof-of-concept battery cell was described recently in a paper published in the journal Advanced Materials.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Aisling Ní Chúláin

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