By Mike Pomranz
Updated December 09, 2014
Credit: © blickwinkel / Alamy

In a move that seems like something from a Jetsons episode, an Australian chemist is inching his way closer to developing sensors out of gelatin and other digestible materials.

Marc in het Panhuis, an associate professor of chemistry and head of the soft materials group at the University of Wollongong in Australia, is in the midst of a seven-year funding period to try to develop electronics that are essentially edible. From a practical standpoint, these devices might be helpful in the medical field, creating sensors that could be swallowed. “What I’m suggesting is that we can eat our electronics, and then they can perform a function and naturally go away,” IEEE Spectrum quotes him as saying.

Scientifically speaking, in het Panhuis is attempting to create hydrogels that are conductive and robust enough not to fall apart but are also not toxic. In one instance, they mixed gelatin (which is used to make Jell-O, of course) with genipin, which is derived from the fruit of the gardenia plant. Other ingredients include gellan gum, a thickener used in all kinds of foods, and even table salt.

Using 3-D printing technology, in het Panhuis believes these gels could be printed out and then cooled, just like Jell-O.

In het Panhuis readily admits that these technologies are still “a little way off,” though he does hope to have something fully developed before his funding ends. So your dreams of getting an edible TV might have to wait until next Christmas.