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Edible Batteries Invented by Carnegie Mellon University Researchers

Dr. Soloman Shah MD

For 15 years, Soloman Shah, MD, has practiced at the Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates PC in Reston, Virginia. Although much Dr. Soloman Shah’s work focuses on liver disorders, he is knowledgeable in treating various gastrointestinal diseases.

At Carnegie Mellon , a team of researchers have developed an edible type of battery that can dissolve inside the gastrointestinal tract. Before this was invented, there was always a risk of putting in any battery-operated electronic device inside the GI tract, because it could cause toxicity complications.

Christopher Bettinger, associate professor of materials science at Carnegie Mellon, and his team developed the edible batteries using nontoxic components harvested from inside the human body. The most significant ingredient is melanin, the pigment found in the skin, eyes, and hair.

Since melanin can bind and unbind ions, it can serve as both a positive terminal and a negative terminal, much like an actual battery. Using magnesium, an element also found in the body, researchers were able to create a battery with both negative and positive poles. Starch holds it all together.

Once the battery comes into contact with liquid or fluid, it turns on and can power a device for up to 20 hours. The most important use for this device, as of this time, is for targeted drug delivery.


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