Researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology have achieved a groundbreaking feat by creating the world’s first rechargeable battery entirely composed of food products, making it not only environmentally friendly but also completely edible. This remarkable development opens doors to potential applications in internal gastrointestinal diagnostic instruments, food quality monitoring, and even edible soft robotics.

The team, led by Mario Caironi, coordinator of the Printed and Molecular Electronics laboratory at the IIT Center in Milan, drew inspiration from biochemical reactions in living beings. The battery’s anode is crafted from riboflavin (vitamin B2), found in almonds, dairy products, and meats, while the cathode is made from the plant flavonoid quercetin, present in capers, citrus fruits, and leafy greens.

To enhance electrical conductivity, activated charcoal and a water-based electrolyte were incorporated. Nori, a roasted seaweed variety, served as a separator to prevent short circuits, and food-grade gold foil covered the beeswax-coated electrodes. Operating at 0.65 volts and producing 48 microamperes for 12 minutes, the battery is ingestible, safe for humans, and provides enough energy for low-power LEDs.

Caironi envisions diverse applications for this edible technology, ranging from circuits and sensors for health monitoring to powering sensors that monitor food storage conditions. The battery’s rechargeability enhances its eco-friendliness, allowing for reuse in applications like food monitoring, significantly reducing waste.

The team is optimistic about miniaturizing the edible battery to fit into a pill. Caironi shared ongoing efforts to develop devices with increased capacity while reducing overall size. Study coauthor Ivan Ilic emphasized the battery’s significance for the energy storage community, citing its safety and non-toxic composition as crucial aspects in the pursuit of building safer, more sustainable batteries for the future. Though not designed for powering electric cars, these edible batteries stand as a testament to the possibility of creating safer alternatives to conventional lithium-ion batteries. The researchers believe their innovation will inspire others to explore safer materials, paving the way for a sustainable energy future.

By Impact Lab