The first image that popped into my head when I heard about edible electronics was something along the lines of:
“Absurd” was my next thought. But, I don’t think I am alone on this initial thought. In reality though, the real concept of edible elctronics is (obviously) nothing like this. In an article published by the MIT Technology Review introduces us to electronic tattoos on food.
The development of organic circuits that can be transferred onto food and pills paves the way for a new era of biomonitoring. ~ MIT Tech Review
In the article, the author compares the concept to the temporary tattoos we used to get from bubble gum wrappers when we were kids. Ok, that nostalgic analogy is sweet, but I wanted to really understand HOW this is going to work before I eat something with a little electronic tattoo on it. Who is Giorgio Bonacchini at the Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa, Italy? Well, this PhD candidate’s profile on the IIT website says “His research work focuses on the investigation of the electronic transport properties of exotic materials for organic bioelectronics, in particular on the production and design of edible electronic devices.”
I tried to understand his recent paper on his research entitled “Water-Gated n-Type Organic Field-Effect Transistors for Complementary Integrated Circuits Operating in an Aqueous Environment”. Most of it is so far above my head, but if you’re fluent in the lingo, you may find it quite interesting! As for me, I just want the gist of it all.
It helps to understand that this concept is just a shrunken, more versatile version of the “camera pills” that have been around for years now. Two problems with the current technology are the fact that they are costly and don’t allow for a lot of versatility.
By using an ink-jet printer they can create nanoparticle-layered circuits made of silver printed directly onto the transfer paper, but this technique isn’t without it’s mystery as to the ability of the circuits being biocompatible. Through some trials and errors, they did find a way to make the semiconductors more stable and resistant to environmental threats, but at the cost of the transferability of the device.
The team admits they have a long way to go in perfecting the technique, and the prospect of an edible battery is probably a concept that is a little hard to swallow for most….. but it may not be very long before you look at that new prescription bottle with a label warning you about the bioreactive “super pills” inside.