Scientists Implant Biofuel Cells Into Rats, I Call Next

Scientists Implant Biofuel Cells Into Rats, I Call Next

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]


  • Now, I may be completely wrong here, perhaps I was dreaming it, but was there not a breast implantable MP3 player made a while back?? This would be awesome to power it. Now if science can crack the laryinx mute button, my ideal women will be complete.

    *hides behind loops, protect me!

  • So the power is being drawn from the glucose and oxygen in our blood stream (well the rats) does that mean the rat has to consume more to keep this running as I imagine the O2 and glucose that the body produces is needed by muscles etc…

    or over time the body would realise that it wasn’t producing enough for the body to function and make more to compensate for the device?

    • Hard to say. With such low power output, I doubt that it would be siphoning off enough glucose/oxygen to seriously affect health, but I’m not a doctor / biologist. But the long term effects would definately need to be investigated before these are widely adopted.

  • so does that mean lazy people can power their own tv, thus burning the energy that they are probably consuming from all the junk food??

    so you don’t get fat, and your TV doesn’t harm the environment!


  • While being able to plug your DS, iDevice or smartphone into your wrist to charge sounds like the greatest invention since teleportation, odds are it will take several years before it reaches the human testing stage.

    I doubt they’ll have trouble finding volunteers.

    I’d really like to see a bit more of the science behind this, and the potential to generate more power.

    If nothing else, you’d never have to change the batteries in your watch again.

  • surely there would have to be weight loss and health implications for this.. ie, if it is consuming energy from your body, it would eventually force your body to start converting fat to keep up, no?
    And conversely, if it kept going for too long, could it make you dangerously underweight, and drained of energy?

  • Assuming this doesn’t have any major negative side effects, and the implant wouldn’t be broken down by your body, this could be great for anybody with a pacemaker, cochlear implant (or perhaps even ordinary hearing aids), and the battery replacement idea would definitely help reduce waste. Hiding permanent tracking devices in the chest cavities of dangerous criminals probably wouldn’t go down too badly either. The other ideas (MP3 player implants, etc.) remind me of needless plastic surgery. You don’t need an MP3 player built into your body, just like people don’t need botox injections, fat/cadaver flesh injections, or implants. Speaking of which, why in the hell do people get fat or cadaver flesh put in their lips anyway? It makes them look hideous.

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