Could biodegradable batteries power smart pills & medical devices? These engineers think so

8:00 am by | 0 Comments

cuttlefishApparently, ink from a marine animal related to the squid could be a potential source of power for the next generation of “smart pills” and biodegradable medical devices.

Some scientists and technology companies envision a future where swallowable or implantable electronics could monitor medication compliance or vital signs from inside the body. Or, tiny sensor-embedded pills could carry drugs that traditionally must be injected through the stomach and into the intestine, where they could then be released and absorbed.

Chris Bettinger and a team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh discovered that pigment in the ink of the cuttlefish has the right chemical makeup and structure to function as the anode in a battery that’s fully biodegradable. Implanted devices that need power present a challenge in that conventional batteries may contain toxic chemicals, so they are encased and eventually are removed from the body.

The team described the biodegradable sodium-ion battery in a paper featured on the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Its performance isn’t as good as lithium-ion batteries, but Bettinger told MIT Technology Review that the team is continuing to improve the power output and storage capacity.


Read more about the batteries and their potential applications here, here and here.

[Image credit: Flickr user Modern Relics]

Copyright 2015 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
More posts by Author