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Edible robots could soon be reality, say Swiss scientists

Wall-E
Wall-E doesn't need to be worried quite yet, but one day edible robots could be used to monitor the state of health from inside the body. Keystone

Completely edible robots could soon end up on our plates. A research team from Lausanne has shown which ingredients could be used for the various robot parts.

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The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) announced on Friday that rubber could be replaced by gelatine, a chocolate film could protect robots in humid environments and a mixture of starch and tannins, plant-based tanning agents, could imitate commercially available adhesives.

The research was published in the journal Nature Reviews Materials.

+ Switzerland – where the robots of tomorrow are born

An edible battery also already exists: it consists of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and quercetin, a substance found in almonds and capers. The poles of the battery contain activated carbon to transport electrons. Nori algae ensure that short circuits are prevented. The battery can be operated at 0.65 volts, according to the EPFL. A voltage that is still safe if eaten. Two edible batteries connected in series can power a light-emitting diode for around ten minutes.

For other parts of a robot, however, the right ingredients are still missing. According to the EPFL researchers, it is difficult to produce completely edible electronics that use transistors and process information. Another major challenge is the connection of different parts.

Edible robots could, for example, be used to monitor the state of health from inside the body, autonomously deliver targeted food in emergency situations or vaccinate wild animals, the researchers noted in the journal.

Translated from German by DeepL/ts

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