Simple battery armor to protect against gastrointestinal injury from accidental ingestion

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Nov 18;111(46):16490-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1418423111. Epub 2014 Nov 3.


Inadvertent battery ingestion in children and the associated morbidity and mortality results in thousands of emergency room visits every year. Given the risk for serious electrochemical burns within hours of ingestion, the current standard of care for the treatment of batteries in the esophagus is emergent endoscopic removal. Safety standards now regulate locked battery compartments in toys, which have resulted in a modest reduction in inadvertent battery ingestion; specifically, 3,461 ingestions were reported in 2009, and 3,366 in 2013. Aside from legislation, minimal technological development has taken place at the level of the battery to limit injury. We have constructed a waterproof, pressure-sensitive coating, harnessing a commercially available quantum tunneling composite. Quantum tunneling composite coated (QTCC) batteries are nonconductive in the low-pressure gastrointestinal environment yet conduct within the higher pressure of standard battery housings. Importantly, this coating technology enables most battery-operated equipment to be powered without modification. If these new batteries are swallowed, they limit the external electrolytic currents responsible for tissue injury. We demonstrate in a large-animal model a significant decrease in tissue injury with QTCC batteries compared with uncoated control batteries. In summary, here we describe a facile approach to increasing the safety of batteries by minimizing the risk for electrochemical burn if the batteries are inadvertently ingested, without the need for modification of most battery-powered devices.

Keywords: battery-induced injury; button battery safety; coin cell battery ingestion; esophageal injury; ingestion of foreign bodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Burns, Chemical / etiology
  • Burns, Chemical / pathology
  • Burns, Chemical / prevention & control*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • Eating*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Power Supplies* / adverse effects
  • Equipment Design
  • Esophagus / injuries*
  • Esophagus / pathology
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pressure
  • Quantum Theory
  • Silver Compounds
  • Surface Properties
  • Sus scrofa
  • Swine


  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • Silver Compounds