Batteries made from pigments found in cuttlefish ink may lead to edible, dissolvable power sources for new kinds of medical devices. Researchers led by Carnegie Mellon University materials scientist Christopher Bettinger demonstrated the new battery. “Instead of lithium and toxic electrolytes that work really well but aren’t biocompatible, we chose simple materials of biological origin,” Bettinger says.
Conventional battery materials are not safe inside the body unless they’re encased in bulky protective cases that must eventually be surgically removed. Electronics that can either be swallowed or implanted in the body without causing harm could monitor wound healing and disease progression, release drugs, and enable more sensitive neural and cardiovascular sensors and stimulators.
The prototype sodium-ion battery from the CMU researchers uses melanin from cuttlefish ink for the anode and manganese oxide as the cathode. All the materials in the battery break down into nontoxic components in the body.
These batteries could be a potential source of power for the next generation of “smart pills” and biodegradable medical devices.