Melanin is a black bio-pigment widely found in the skin and hair. It is typically extracted from the ink sacs of squid and cuttlefish only in minute quantities due to the complexity of the extraction process or produced synthetically at high production costs.
Melanin has proven electrically conductive, photoacoustic, photothermal and therapeutic properties and is completely biodegradable and biocompatible. This material has been investigated in the fields of:
- Organic electronics as a battery or semiconductor
- Biomedical science as a photoacoustic/contrast agent in bioimaging modalities, as a photothermal agent in photothermal therapy (PTT), as an anti-tumour agent, and as a bioadhesive
The company has developed a proprietary method of extracting melanin of high purity from black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens). With black soldier fly farms fast becoming a major addition to the agricultural industry, the availability of melanin is also consequently increased at a lower cost compared to other commercially available sources. Depending on the final application, the properties of melanin extracted may be customised or modified to the desired properties.
Features of the melanin produced from this technology include:
- Produced as a black solid in a protonated form
- Easily soluble in various organic solvents
- Melanin can be modified either chemically or physically so that its properties are amenable to desired applications
- Other physiochemical characterisations available upon signing of NDA with the company
Potential applications of melanin derived from black soldier flies include (but are not limited to):
- Conductive inks in flexible, wearable electronics
- Green battery technologies
- Antimicrobial technologies in medical devices
- Research in theranostics for the simultaneous diagnosis and treatment of cancers
- Bio-adhesive in surgical devices
Electronics suffer from the massive production of e-waste consisting of toxic heavy metals. The use of melanin as a replacement for such heavy metals is attractive in an industry seeking to be sustainable.
Melanin may be incorporated into theranostics as it is able to simultaneously diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. As opposed to other technologies available in the market, melanin is completely biodegradable and has no known toxicity to the human body or to animals.