The most troubling issue with implantable medical devices like pacemakers is to provide them with power. There are some wireless solutions in the air, but they are mostly too bulky and large. So far, the best solution have to been to put a battery inside the body together with the device, even though there are some safety concerns. However, there is new type of battery being developed by John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is biodegradable and completely dissolves inside the body of its recipient.
The key to such ability is the used materials. Magnesium foil is used for the anodes of the battery, while the cathode can either be iron, tungsten, or molybdenum. Phosphate-buffered saline makes up the electrolyte, and the entire battery is enclosed in a biodegradable polymer shell. The cell of the battery has just one square centimetre.
There are other similar concepts in development, like one with electrodes generated from cuttlefish ink, but Mr. Rogers’ device is superior to them in terms of power. As of now, it is able to provide 2.4 milliamps of steady current for about a day. Furthermore, Mr. Rogers believes that its size could be reduced to about a quarter.
Besides medical implants, these batteries could be also used in sensitive environments. For example, they can power sensors, which could also be biodegradable, that try to access oil spill damage. These devices can be used in oceans and just dissolve into the water after they have finished their task.
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