Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Color Changing Coating Means Safer Button Batteries

A new technology invented by senior lecturer Jeongbin Ok at Victoria University Wellington, in New Zealand, could lead to safer button batteries. The technology is a coating that when placed inside a person's mouth, turns the saliva blue. It also contains flavoring to deter children from ingesting the batteries. The color changing coating works as an early warning to parents and caregivers that their child has ingested a button battery.

 

Battery ingestion causes up to 20 hospitalisations at Auckland’s Starship Hospital every year, and around 3000 annual hospitalisations in the United States. A color changing coating can alert parents that a child has ingested a battery.
Battery ingestion causes up to 20 hospitalisations at Auckland’s Starship Hospital every year, and around 3000 annual hospitalisations in the United States. A color changing coating can alert parents that a child has ingested a battery.

“This is a very exciting innovation and a great example of Kiwi ingenuity addressing a very real and serious hazard in a practical and cost-effective way,” says Martin Rushton, Trading Standards Team Leader Safety & Technical at the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE), in New Zealand. “This ‘early warning’ system will complement other measures around warnings and education and we are encouraging battery manufacturers get behind improving consumer safety—parents and caregivers will, I am sure, be keen to see button batteries with this feature, to help safeguard infants and young children.”

 

From the Victoria Wellington University article: "'The problem is that parents don’t always know that ingestion has occurred, because the batteries are so small and young children can’t communicate that they have swallowed something,' Mr Ok says.

The coating can be applied to batteries during the manufacturing process or applied to existing batteries using a pen applicator.

Battery ingestion causes up to 20 hospitalisations at Auckland’s Starship Hospital every year, and around 3000 annual hospitalisations in the United States. Button batteries are highly corrosive and can cause serious tissue damage and even fatalities within two hours of ingestion."

 

Read more about the color changing coating for button batteries at Victoria Wellington University