Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University in the US have developed a biodegradable battery made from cuttlefish ink.
The biological batteries are made using melanin, an edible pigment found in cuttlefish ink. The devices could be used to power edible electronics, allowing the controlled delivery of medication for chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Conventional batteries are made from lithium – a highly reactive element that can be harmful to humans if not stored in sealed protective casing. In comparison, the cuttlefish batteries are designed to be ingested and can be safely broken down and absorbed by the body after use.
“Instead of lithium and toxic electrolytes that work really well but aren’t biocompatible, we chose simple materials of biological origin,” says Christopher Bettinger, lead scientist on the project.
The batteries are just one example of the pioneering research into flexible, edible and transient electronics, which are heralding a new wave of medical devices. Last month, researchers at Harvard Medical School in the US announced the development of a smart contact lens that could treat glaucoma – the world’s number one cause of blindness.