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Why is this useful? Well, a battery that uses Mg (versus Na
or lithium (Li)) can have higher charge storage capacities.”
The team chose to use mixture of water and gastric fluid (a
sodium ion) as an electrolyte.
A Promising Battery
The resulting battery produces 3. 7 volts, similar to the voltages
produced by lithium-ion chemistries. According to the team’s
research, 600 mg of melanin is able to power a 5m W device up
to 18 hours, when melanin is used as the cathode. However,
the team is working on batteries capable of providing up to
10m W for any medical device.
“Most other kinds of energy-harvesting techniques or glu-
cose oxidase fuel cells are going to be microwatts of power,
so we are three orders of magnitude higher than those kinds
of energy sources,” he said in an interview with Phys.org.
One day, Bettinger hopes his battery could be used in
devices that sense gut microbiome changes, or a device that
slowly delivers vaccinations.
Bettinger offered a macabre suggestion for obtaining materials to build his battery.
“We could cut up humans to get the melanin,” he jokes.
On a serious note, Bettinger explained that not only can
natural melanin can be extracted from cuttlefish ink, but it is
commercially available as well. Synthetic melanin can also be
chemically manufactured and even has a higher capacity to
power devices than natural melanin.
The team is also developing a battery made with pectin,
found in plants and used in jelly. In the future, Bettinger and
his fellow researchers hope to create packaging materials that
could be used to deliver the battery to the stomach. MDT