By Sarah Faulkner
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University unveiled an ingestible battery that could eventually power medical devices, including drug-delivery mechanisms.
The inspiration came when Christopher Bettinger, PhD, and his team noted that melanin pigments bind and unbind metallic ions. “We thought, ‘This is just like a battery,'” Bettinger said.
The melanin pigments are encapsulated by a 3D-printed shell, easily digestible because it’s made of gelatin. After swallowing the battery, it comes into contact with charged molecules in the stomach, which creates a current. This electrical field could stimulate the release of chemicals, a necessary component for targeted therapies. The research was presented yesterday at the at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.
Bettinger chose to focus on naturally occurring materials to create low-toxicity batteries. “We have to think about biologically-derived materials that could replace some of these things you might find in a RadioShack,” he explained.
The team reported that the battery could power a 5milliWatt device for up to 18 hours. Longevity isn’t an issue, since 10-20 hours offers enough time for a device to work in the body.
Moving forward, they hope to develop different types of ingestible batteries and packaging that could effectively deliver the battery to the stomach.