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Bio-Compatible Batteries Already Here

Today, “battery” is a loaded word. While it means a powerful, easy energy solution, it is also synonymous with harmful, toxic, or otherwise environmentally unfriendly.

This preconception has driven many projects looking to find a green solution and now the first bio-compatible, ion current battery is finally here.

The team behind it comes from the University of Maryland, where the news about the novelty battery was shared in late July. The reason it is completely bio-compatible is the kind of energy it hosts: instead of the traditional lithium option which creates artificial energy, it stimulates ion-based energy commonly found in humans, animals, and other living things. Where other batteries shift around positive ions, this battery recreates natural flow by moving electrons themselves.

Another different feature of the battery is that its energy is stored in grass. The collected bluegrass is soaked in lithium salt solution and placed in glass tubes of the battery. Connected by a metal wire at the top, the energy from the grass is released as the electrons flow from one end to another.

Some applications of the battery include micro-manipulation of neuronal activities or tools to deliver medicines into the body more efficiently. This is because of the ability of the battery to transmit current to living cells – a function widely researched but rarely achieved. Until now, the conversion of electronic current to the ionic current found in living things has been tricky due to too high a voltage, but the ionic battery could work at any needed voltage. This means the battery, once operational, would be widely used for medicinal purposes.

To expand on their success, the team plans to create a series of bio-compatible batteries. “We are developing multiple ionic conductors with cellulose, hydrogels and polymers,” said Chengwei Wang, a part of the team and first author of the published paper.

What this new battery means for the industry is notable: we’re not there quite yet, but it is a step towards a bio degradable battery, which twenty years ago would have been deemed near impossible. While medicine is not in our direct area of interest, keeping an eye on technological developments prepares us for changes in our own field. Because of this, Dashboard is very interested in the development of the ionic battery.