Yes, you're reading that right. A University of Arizona engineering team has successfully built a supercapacitor out of ingestible food items — and the potential applications go far beyond the electric sandwiches.
Mechanical engineering professor Dr. Hanqing Jiang and his team first constructed their device from a number of edible ingredients known for storing and conducting electricity: water, activated charcoal pellets, egg white, gold foil, gelatin, cheddar cheese, seaweed and of course a Monster energy drink. The layered and sealed results resemble a small wonton or ravioli, with the cheese serving as the device's casing. The team published their findings in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.
The supercapacitor demonstrated the ability to kill disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli in lab experiments, but the core application here involves ingestible electronics such as capsuled endoscopic cameras. With our current technology, capsule breakage can release toxins inside the patient's body. Existing biodegradable electronics suffer from energy density and battery size limits. With proper application of 3-D printing technology, we could see a miniaturized, specialized version of this edible supercapacitor in a host of future ingestible or implanted biomedical devices.
It's an exciting area of innovation, drawing on advancements in food science, device fabrication, biomedical engineering and material sciences — to say nothing of cheddar physics.
And hey, maybe this'll be a great way for the U.S. to get rid of that excess cheese that "The Colbert Show" says the country has.