The number of different technologies that rely on battery power is increasing by the minute. Phones, watches, music players, cameras, cars, buses, renewable energy plants and even pace-makers- all depend and work with some sort of an energy storage device.
Unfortunately, these energy storage devices (a.k.a. batteries) are always associated with being polluting and difficult to dispose of. They all come with a warning, stating that once they are no longer in use, they should be discarded in a special way to avoid any leakage of toxic elements in the environment.
Big problem are also the batteries that are used in some specific medical instruments. Often the patients have to swallow these instruments in order for the doctor to be able to give diagnosis. This is the case, for example, with tiny cameras, which can pass through easily. These, however, should not be used frequently, as at some point, the chemicals used in the powering devices can cause more harm than the instrument would cause good.
With these thoughts in mind, scientists from Carnegie Mellon University decided to explore the possibility of developing a battery that can be eaten safely. Their two main goals are to reduce environmental pollution and to support safe medical treatments.
The team used melanin, which is a pigment found in our skin, and common metals like copper, and iron. Putting those together, the scientists were able to create a functioning natural and safe to swallow energy storage device. With 600 milligrams of melanin used as a cathode, the new technology can power a 5 milliwatt gadget for a duration of 18 hours.
Of course, this amount of power is very small, and cannot by any means compete with the Li-ion technology. However, the edible battery is highly promising. It shows that there is a huge potential in using natural materials. Hopefully soon, these will be good enough to replace their polluting competitors.
The technology was presented at the 252nd annual conference of the American Chemical Society (ACS), held in Philadelphia earlier this week.
Image (C) Carnegie Mellon University