Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have designed and demonstrated a small voltaic cell that is sustained by the acidic fluids in the stomach. The system can generate enough power to run for small sensors or drug delivery devices that can reside in the gastrointestinal tract for extended periods of time.
Researchers say the power generated by the cell is a better, safer and a lower cost alternative to the traditional batteries.
“We need to come up with ways to power these ingestible systems for a long time,” says Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. “We see the GI tract as providing a really unique opportunity to house new systems for drug delivery and sensing, and fundamental to these systems is how they are powered.”
Traverso is also a gastroenterologist and a biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and is one of the senior authors of the study. Traverso and Langer have previously built and tested many ingestible devices that can be utilized to gather physiological conditions such as temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate, or to deliver drugs to treat diseases such as malaria.
“This work could lead to a new generation of electronic ingestible pills that could someday enable novel methods of monitoring patient health and or/treating disease,” Langer says.
These devices are normally powered by small batteries, but conventional batteries self-discharge over time and hence may cause a possible medical safety risk....