Edible supercap

A lot of exciting “wearable” Health Tech projects involved “wearing” a device on the inside of your body. In other words, you swallow it. But if it requires electrical power to operate, you need to find a safe way to provide this energy. As we’ve covered before, common battery technology such as button batteries can be extremely dangerous if swallowed.

A group at Arizona State University has tackled this problem, and come up with a tasty solution. They have created an edible supercapacitor (“supercap”) that can deliver energy for a swallowed device, and then be harmlessly digested when its mission is complete. A supercap has the best features of a battery and a capacitor. Like a battery, it can store a lot of energy in a small space. Like a capacitor, it can be charged (and recharged) quickly, and can deliver its stored power faster than a battery. The recipe for this edible supercap includes cheese, seaweed, carbon, energy drink, and barbecue sauce, stacked in a sandwich and sealed between flexible layers of gelatin (the same material used for medicine capsules).

The researchers have demonstrated that the prototype device is suitable for powering a wireless camera in a patient’s stomach. While the prototypes have been hand-built at this point, the materials and design are well suited for fabrication using 3D printers, which will result in much smaller devices. The research team is in discussion with contacts at the Mayo Clinic about possible applications.