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ASU engineers create edible electricity, could be used in endoscopies

Tempe – May 10, 2016 – ASU Now – Edible capacitors – Materials to make edible superconductors are pictured in Dr. Hanqing Jiang's lab in the Engineering Research Center on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. Dr. Jiang's research focuses on edible electronics that can, for example, kill E. coli using electric shocks. Photo by Ben Moffat/ASU Now

Future endoscopies could require you to eat the camera.

Arizona State University’s engineering team created a supercapacitor that’s edible. Basically, it is a combination of egg, water, carbon pellets, gold foil, gelatin, cheddar cheese, seaweed and an energy drink.

It looks like a large postage stamp, but that mix can temporarily store electricity. It’s already been proven to kill E. Coli bacteria. The device can also power a camera in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

“We can eat a camera, made of food and pass through the GI tract and do whatever function is necessary in the GI tract,” said Hanqing Jiang, an associate professor at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

He said one day the device could power the camera that would be used in endoscopies.

“Eventually, this can function as an edible power source,” Jiang said.

He has been working with ASU engineering students on this project since August. He has talked with officials from Mayo Clinic about future application of the device. Jiang said he’s hopeful about what it may be able to do in the GI tract in the future.

“Locally, we may be able to eliminate or suppress the growth of cancer cells,” Jiang said.

He cautioned that there is still work and research to be done before that becomes a possibility.

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