Tag Archives: ingestible electronics

Plug me in: how to power up ingestible and implantable electroncis

From time to time I’ve featured ‘vampire technology’, a name I vastly prefer to energy harvesting or any of its variants. The focus has usually been on implantable electronic devices such as pacemakers and deep brain stimulators.

In this February 16, 2021 Nanowerk Spotlight article, Michael Berger broadens the focus to include other electronic devices,

Imagine edible medical devices that can be safely ingested by patients, perform a test or release a drug, and then transmit feedback to your smartphone; or an ingestible, Jell-O-like pill that monitors the stomach for up to a month.

Devices like these, as well as a wide range of implantable biomedical electronic devices such as pacemakers, neurostimulators, subdermal blood sensors, capsule endoscopes, and drug pumps, can be useful tools for detecting physiological and pathophysiological signals, and providing treatments performed inside the body.

Advances in wireless communication enable medical devices to be untethered when in the human body. Advances in minimally invasive or semi-invasive surgical implantation procedures have enabled biomedical devices to be implanted in locations where clinically important biomarkers and physiological signals can be detected; it has also enabled direct administration of medication or treatment to a target location.

However, one major challenge in the development of these devices is the limited lifetime of their power sources. The energy requirements of biomedical electronic devices are highly dependent on their application and the complexity of the required electrical systems.

Berger’s commentary was occasioned by a review article in Advanced Functional Materials (link and citation to follow at the end of this post). Based on this review, the February 16, 2021 Nanowerk Spotlight article provides insight into the current state of affairs and challenges,

Biomedical electronic devices can be divided into three main categories depending on their application: diagnostic, therapeutic, and closed-loop systems. Each category has a different degree of complexity in the electronic system.

… most biomedical electronic devices are composed of a common set of components, including a power unit, sensors, actuators, a signal processing and control unit, and a data storage unit. Implantable and ingestible devices that require a great deal of data manipulation or large quantities of data logging also need to be wirelessly connected to an external device so that data can be transmitted to an external receiver and signal processing, data storage, and display can be performed more efficiently.

The power unit, which is composed of one or more energy sources – batteries, energy-harvesting, and energy transfer – as well as power management circuits, supplies electrical energy to the whole system.

Implantable medical devices such as cardiac pacemakers, neurostimulators and drug delivery devices are major medical tools to support life activity and provide new therapeutic strategies. Most such devices are powered by lithium batteries whose service life is as low as 10 years. Hence, many patients must undergo a major surgery to check the battery performance and replace the batteries as necessary.

In the last few decades, new battery technology has led to increases in the performance, reliability, and lifetime of batteries. However, challenges remain, especially in terms of volumetric energy density and safety.

Electronic miniaturization allows more functionalities to be added to devices, which increases power requirements. Recently, new material-based battery systems have been developed with higher energy densities.

Different locations and organ systems in the human body have access to different types of energy sources, such as mechanical, chemical, and electromagnetic energies.

Energy transfer technologies can deliver energy from outside the body to implanted or ingested devices. If devices are implanted at the locations where there are no accessible endogenous energies, exogenous energies in the form of ultrasonic or electromagnetic waves can penetrate through the biological barriers and wirelessly deliver the energies to the devices.

Both images embedded in the February 16, 2021 Nanowerk Spotlight article are informative. I’m particularly taken with the timeline which follows the development of batteries, energy harvesting/transfer devices, ingestible electronics, and implantable electronics. The first battery was in 1800 followed by ingestible and implantable electronics in the 1950s.

Berger’s commentary ends on this,

Concluding their review, the authors [in Advanced Functional Materials] note that low energy conversion efficiency and power output are the fundamental bottlenecks of energy harvesting and transfer devices. They suggest that additional studies are needed to improve the power output of energy harvesting and transfer devices so that they can be used to power various biomedical electronics.

Furthermore, durability studies of promising energy harvesters should be performed to evaluate their use in long-term applications. For degradable energy harvesting devices, such as friction-based energy harvesters and galvanic cells, improving the device lifetime is essential for use in real-life applications.

Finally, manufacturing cost is another factor to consider when commercializing novel batteries, energy harvesters, or energy transfer devices as power sources for medical devices.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Powering Implantable and Ingestible Electronics by So‐Yoon Yang, Vitor Sencadas, Siheng Sean You, Neil Zi‐Xun Jia, Shriya Sruthi Srinivasan, Hen‐Wei Huang, Abdelsalam Elrefaey Ahmed, Jia Ying Liang, Giovanni Traverso. Advanced Functional Materials DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202009289 First published: 04 February 2021

This paper is behind a paywall.

It may be possible to receive a full text PDF of the article from the authors. Try here.

There are others but here are two of my posts about ‘vampire energy’,

Harvesting the heart’s kinetic energy to power implants (July 26, 2019)

Vampire nanogenerators: 2017 (October 19, 2017)

Do you want that coffee with some graphene on toast?

These scientists are excited:

For those who prefer text, here’s the Rice University Feb. 13, 2018 news release (received via email and available online here and on EurekAlert here) Note: Links have been removed),

Rice University scientists who introduced laser-induced graphene (LIG) have enhanced their technique to produce what may become a new class of edible electronics.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour, which once turned Girl Scout cookies into graphene, is investigating ways to write graphene patterns onto food and other materials to quickly embed conductive identification tags and sensors into the products themselves.

“This is not ink,” Tour said. “This is taking the material itself and converting it into graphene.”

The process is an extension of the Tour lab’s contention that anything with the proper carbon content can be turned into graphene. In recent years, the lab has developed and expanded upon its method to make graphene foam by using a commercial laser to transform the top layer of an inexpensive polymer film.

The foam consists of microscopic, cross-linked flakes of graphene, the two-dimensional form of carbon. LIG can be written into target materials in patterns and used as a supercapacitor, an electrocatalyst for fuel cells, radio-frequency identification (RFID) antennas and biological sensors, among other potential applications.

The new work reported in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano demonstrated that laser-induced graphene can be burned into paper, cardboard, cloth, coal and certain foods, even toast.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” Tour said. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin and the path it took to get to your table.”

He said LIG tags could also be sensors that detect E. coli or other microorganisms on food. “They could light up and give you a signal that you don’t want to eat this,” Tour said. “All that could be placed not on a separate tag on the food, but on the food itself.”

Multiple laser passes with a defocused beam allowed the researchers to write LIG patterns into cloth, paper, potatoes, coconut shells and cork, as well as toast. (The bread is toasted first to “carbonize” the surface.) The process happens in air at ambient temperatures.

“In some cases, multiple lasing creates a two-step reaction,” Tour said. “First, the laser photothermally converts the target surface into amorphous carbon. Then on subsequent passes of the laser, the selective absorption of infrared light turns the amorphous carbon into LIG. We discovered that the wavelength clearly matters.”

The researchers turned to multiple lasing and defocusing when they discovered that simply turning up the laser’s power didn’t make better graphene on a coconut or other organic materials. But adjusting the process allowed them to make a micro supercapacitor in the shape of a Rice “R” on their twice-lased coconut skin.

Defocusing the laser sped the process for many materials as the wider beam allowed each spot on a target to be lased many times in a single raster scan. That also allowed for fine control over the product, Tour said. Defocusing allowed them to turn previously unsuitable polyetherimide into LIG.

“We also found we could take bread or paper or cloth and add fire retardant to them to promote the formation of amorphous carbon,” said Rice graduate student Yieu Chyan, co-lead author of the paper. “Now we’re able to take all these materials and convert them directly in air without requiring a controlled atmosphere box or more complicated methods.”

The common element of all the targeted materials appears to be lignin, Tour said. An earlier study relied on lignin, a complex organic polymer that forms rigid cell walls, as a carbon precursor to burn LIG in oven-dried wood. Cork, coconut shells and potato skins have even higher lignin content, which made it easier to convert them to graphene.

Tour said flexible, wearable electronics may be an early market for the technique. “This has applications to put conductive traces on clothing, whether you want to heat the clothing or add a sensor or conductive pattern,” he said.

Rice alumnus Ruquan Ye is co-lead author of the study. Co-authors are Rice graduate student Yilun Li and postdoctoral fellow Swatantra Pratap Singh and Professor Christopher Arnusch of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported the research.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Laser-Induced Graphene by Multiple Lasing: Toward Electronics on Cloth, Paper, and Food by Yieu Chyan, Ruquan Ye†, Yilun Li, Swatantra Pratap Singh, Christopher J. Arnusch, and James M. Tour. ACS Nano DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b08539 Publication Date (Web): February 13, 2018

Copyright © 2018 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

h/t Feb. 13, 2018 news item on Nanowerk