A battery made with the skin pigment melanin could one day provide a safer way to power electronic devices installed within the human body for drug delivery or internal monitoring.
Carnegie Mellon University's Christopher Bettinger has found a way to build batteries from biological materials. "If we could safely ingest devices, then we could overcome a lot of the issues we have with current implanted devices, such as infection and inflammation," Bettinger says.
His team built the bio-battery by engineering positively charged anodes out of a mixture containing high levels of melanin, then introduced sodium ions and loaded the anodes into a steel mesh structure. Melanin's uniform chemical structure allows the biological material to pack in many ions, which is key to determining how much charge a battery can hold. The battery can discharge for up to five hours, but it has a lower power output than standard batteries. In addition, the current version is not fully biodegradable.
"The idea is that such technologies could be used as power sources for systems that go into the body, monitor a wound-healing process, deliver therapy as necessary, and then naturally disappear after the wound is completely healed," says the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's John Rogers.
From New Scientist
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