A team of scientists from Joseph Fourier University in France have successfully implant biofuel cells into rats, generating 6.5 microwatts by harnessing the power of glucose. If they can amp that up, I might never need a DS charger again.
A glucose biofuel cell works by taking the naturally occurring glucose and oxygen in an animal’s body and using enzymes to oxidise the glucose, which generates electrical energy. Since glucose and oxygen are two things a body always has, glucose-fuelled biofuel cells have the potential to generate electricity as long as a body maintains normal function.
One snag that’s prevented scientists from doing this previously is the fact that the enzymes required for the process to work often require an acidic environment, or have been subject to interference from the charged particles in the fluid surrounding cells. To get around this, Philippe Cinquin and his team overcame this issue by placing certain enzymes within graphite discs and then placing them inside dialysis bags, keeping the enzymes separated by the oxygen and glucose flowing free.
The devices were implanted into two lab rats. The result? Super powered rats!
Well no. The rats were outputting power, however, with a max voltage of 6.5 microwatts, with one outputting 2 microwatts for 11 days. The other rat continues to show signs of glucose oxidisation for three months, a sure sign the device was still working.
So this is a pretty big step in medical science. It takes 10 microwatts to power a pacemaker, and with Cinquin and his team sure they can up the power to tens of microwatts, we could soon see a wide variety of medical devices powered by our own bodies.
From an entertainment and communications standpoint, with enough power output, a glucose biofuel cell could power an implanted cell phone, or generate enough of a current to be detected by a motion-control system, making us living game controllers.
Or we could create bioelectric stings like Henry Pym, Yellowjacket!
Of course, there is a downside to this milestone. Now that the robots know we can generate electricity, it’s almost Matrix time.
Or is it already Matrix time?
Power from Glucose [MIT Technology Review]