A convergence of electronics and medical science is opening up an interesting field — edible electronics. Electronics, circuits and all, which you can (must) eat.

The European Union is implementing an ‘ELFO (ELectronic Food) project’ — developing technology for edible electronic systems. These are “imperceptible circuits and sensors” that can perform a function and then be degraded within the body. Edible electronics have applications in advanced biomedical devices for continuous monitoring of health status within the gastrointestinal tract.

“The goal is to gain more information about what we eat and how it is assimilated, as well as enabling mass health screening,” says an EU resource.

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of an “ingestible camera” produced by a company called CapsoVision. Edible electronics, therefore, seems to be gaining ground. Last year, a scientific publication called Advanced Materials Technologies published a paper titled ‘Edible electronics: The vision and Challenge’, which observes that edible electronics is now “a concrete technology” that has applications stretching from drugs compliance to video endoscopy.

The paper notes that edible electronics could also expand to the food industry, where monitoring and tracking of foods, especially perishables, is the primary objective — edible electronics can be “smart tags” placed in direct contact with the food products.

Back home, Prof Sanjiv Sambandan of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, has been working on edible electronics. His ‘edible electronic pill’, which houses “sensors to detect clinically important parameters in the gastrointestinal tract and relay the information to the outside world”, was one of the winners of the National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition, 2020.