Over the years, traditional implantable batteries have been used to perform a desired function, but had to be surgically inserted and removed. Now, many current applications benefit from the use of disposable micro-batteries that can be ingested by the mouth and are biodegradable or small enough to be naturally eliminated.
In addition to meeting performance requirements, an edible battery must be non-toxic, bio-compatible, and present no risk to the patient. They must also be able to withstand contact with human fluids and tissues without affecting performance. Form factor is also important as the battery has to be small enough to swallow, and often must fit inside a device with a specific shape. The battery may be required to be the size of a grain of rice, or even on the order of dimensions of a human hair. Many of these requirements are also true of the electronics that are used in conjunction with the battery.
The medical industry has made strides with edible micro-batteries and research continues to develop as innovative applications emerge. Several products are currently being developed to help doctors diagnose and treat certain conditions. These include sensors, drug delivery or nerve stimulator systems made from biodegradable shape memory polymers and powered by tiny batteries. Shape memory polymers are stiff before insertion into the body, and become soft and pliable on encountering temperatures inside the human body.
Edible Micro-Battery Applications
Three applications for edible micro-batteries include:
Pharmaceutical – Battery-powered drug delivery systems allow doctors to release medication inside the body where it will have the most impact. They can effectively deliver drugs that would normally have to be injected because they would be destroyed by stomach acid. A smart pill contains the drugs and releases them only when inside the intestines. Edible micro-batteries can also be used with sensors to confirm patient compliance with a pharmaceutical protocol. When the pill reaches the stomach, the acid triggers a sensor that transmits a signal to indicate that the patient has taken their medication.
Camera pill – A pill-sized camera that transmits video after a patient swallows it can provide valuable information about what is happening in their body without requiring invasive surgery. Camera pills can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify the presence of cancer or other conditions. The first iterations of this technology were not digestible, but innovators are working on biodegradable versions that will ultimately dissolve in the body. It may eventually be possible to create a biodegradable camera that is small enough to be safely injected.
GI tract – Swallowable capsules with timed release technology allow the delivery of drugs or tissue-stimulating devices directly to the GI tract. They can also be used with devices designed to monitor gastric problems.
These are just a few of the ways that edible micro-batteries may be employed in the medical world. New advancements are sure to arise as the technology becomes more powerful, reliable, and even smaller.
Because the technology is so specialized, it is virtually impossible to find an existing edible micro-battery that meets the specifications for a new project, which is why so many product development teams turn to a custom battery developer for help. If you need a custom edible micro-battery for one of these applications, or if you have an idea for another type of product, get in touch with FlexEl today. Contact us today to get started.