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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Italian scientists have built an edible battery

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A completely edible battery, enough to power small electronic devices, was built by Italian scientists. The starting point of this invention was the study of the electrical properties of food products and the possibility of combining them to create new, edible electrical materials.

Potential applications for the battery, said research coordinator Mario Caironi, “range from food circuits and sensors that can monitor health, to powering sensors to monitor food storage conditions.” ‘In addition, given the safety level of these batteries, they could be used in children’s toys where there is a high risk of swallowing,’ he noted.

– We are already developing devices with higher capacity and smaller size. These solutions will also be tested to power edible soft robots in the future, added Caironi.

Vitamin B2, seaweed, edible gold

In their work, scientists from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genoa drew inspiration from the biochemical redox reactions that occur in all living organisms. They developed a battery that uses riboflavin, a vitamin B2 found in, for example, almonds, as the anode (the electrode through which the electrical current enters the device) and quercetin (a dietary supplement and an ingredient present, for example, in capers).

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Activated charcoal (a common over-the-counter drug) was used to increase electrical conductivity, while the electrolyte was water-based. The separator – needed in every battery to avoid short circuits – is made of nori seaweed – the kind found in sushi. Then the electrodes were surrounded by beeswax, from which two contacts made of edible gold on a carrier of cellulose come out.

Italian scientists have built an edible batteryIT

The battery cell operates at a voltage of 0.65 V – low enough that it does not cause problems in the human body when swallowed. It can deliver a current of 48 microamps for 12 minutes or a few microamps for over an hour. This is sufficient to power small electronic devices such as LEDs.

Italian scientists have built an edible batteryIT

“We believe that they will inspire other scientists to build safer batteries”

Study co-author Ivan Ilic said that ‘the edible battery is also very interesting from the point of view of energy storage groups’. “Building safer batteries without using toxic materials is a challenge we face in the face of the growing demand for batteries. While our edible batteries do not power electric cars, they are proof that they can be manufactured from safer materials than current lithium-ion batteries. We believe they will inspire other scientists to build safer batteries for a truly sustainable future,’ he said.

As indicated in the press release of the Italian institute, “edible electronics is a recently developing field that can have a huge impact on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the digestive system and the monitoring of food quality. One of the most interesting challenges in the development of future edible electronic systems is implementation of edible energy sources”. The study was described in the journal “Advanced Materials”.

Main photo source: IT



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