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Medical Physician | Founder & CEO of PDP Health

Power Up

The medical community always wants to become as accurate as possible when diagnosing diseases and administering proper treatment. As part of that journey, Christopher Bittinger has been working on the development of edible batteries. Bittinger, a P.I. at a Carnegie Mellon biotech lab, hopes that the batteries can be used to power tiny medical robots that will play a huge role in disease diagnosis and treatment.

Normally, these robots run on batteries that are toxic, thanks to the presence of metals like Lithium. So the task at hand was straightforward, but challenging: develop a nontoxic battery. To make this a reality, his lab tapped into some older ideas and produced a battery that used melanin as a main component. As Mark Kim of All Tech Considered points out, melanin-based electronics have been studied since the 1970s, and some researchers include Nobel laureates.  By using cuttlefish ink, Bettinger hopes that his device can power familiar devices like pacemakers.

There’s still some way to go until we see widespread production. Chemical trials have yet to begin, and that’s fundamental to determining the overall safety of the product. We would also need to learn more about melanin, which is still somewhat of a mystery despite its presence in skin and hair.