Researchers from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia have developed the first ever rechargeable edible battery made from food. It is created with the chemical components of almonds, capers, and nori seaweed.

Recently, a paper published in the Advanced Materials Journal describes a proof of concept battery cells. This battery cell can be used in edible soft robotics, health diagnostics, and food quality monitoring.

The study was conducted by Mario Caironi, a coordinator of the Printed and Molecular Electronics laboratory of the IIT Center in Milan, Italy along with his group. Caironi focuses on the study of electromagnetic properties of food and its byproducts.

This way he finds a way to combine the chemical properties of food for creating new edible electronic materials. This is the first ever example of fully edible rechargeable batteries.

The biochemical redox reactions take place in all living beings and that inspired the research group. This battery cell operates at a very low voltage so that it does not create any problems when ingested.

It operates at 0.65V and provides a current of 48μA for around 12 minutes or a few microamps for more than an hour. Small electronics devices like low power LEDs can be powered for a limited time with this much power. To discover edible power sources is the main challenge faced in the development of edible electronics.

Mario Caironi in this context added, “Future potential uses range from edible circuits and sensors that can monitor health conditions to the powering of sensors for monitoring food storage conditions. Moreover, given the level of safety of these batteries, they could be used in children’s toys, where there is a high risk of ingestion.

Actually, we are already developing devices with greater capacity and reducing the overall size. These developments will be tested in future also for powering edible soft robots.”

Ivan Ilic, co-author of the study, said, “This edible battery is also very interesting for the energy storage community. Building safer batteries, without usage of toxic materials, is a challenge we face as battery demand soars.

While our edible batteries won’t power electric cars, they are proof that batteries can be made from safer materials than current Li-ion batteries. We believe they will inspire other scientists to build safer batteries for truly sustainable future.”

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is present in almonds and served as the anode. Similarly, capers contain quercetin, an ingredient in food supplements, and it was used as cathode.

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While the electrolyte was water-based activated charcoal was used to increase electrical conductivity. Next comes the separator that avoids short circuits in batteries that were made from nori seaweed. Electrodes were encapsulated in beeswax to derive 2 food-grade gold contacts.

Edible electronic is a growing field, but it can have a great impact on diagnosis and treatment. Basically for gastrointestinal tract diseases along with effective food monitoring. But with a rechargeable edible battery made from food, the road to more innovations in this field seems a bit clear now.

Source: Wiley Online Library


Elliot is a passionate environmentalist and blogger who has dedicated his life to spreading awareness about conservation, green energy, and renewable energy. With a background in environmental science, he has a deep understanding of the issues facing our planet and is committed to educating others on how they can make a difference.

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