By Maria Panagiotidi
Researchers led by Evgeny Katz, the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science at Clarkson University, have implanted a biofuel cell in a living snail. Their findings were published in the Journal of The American Chemical Society.
The “implanted battery” can generate electrical power for several months driven by glucose, which is produced by the snail.
This is the first reported incident of an implanted biofuel cell operating in a snail and producing electrical power over a long period of time using as fuel the glucose that is physiologically generated by its host.
Implantable biofuel cells have been suggested as sustainable micropower sources operating in living organisms, but such systems are still very challenging to design. In the future, implanted fuel cells that are driven by glucose generated by their host could power medical devices in humans or environmental sensors in animals.
Evgeny Katz and his colleagues made the electrodes of their fuel cell out of densely packed carbon nanotubes, and attached glucose-oxidizing and oxygen-reducing enzymes to them. The authors then implanted the electrodes into a snail (Neohelix albolabris). After decreasing the rate of current extraction to match the snail’s slow glucose transport and metabolism, they got continuous electrical output for an hour. The amount of electricity produced was far below that of just one AAA battery, but the group of scientists aim to increase it in future experiments. The fuel cell remained functional in the snail for several months during which the animal was allowed to roam freely and live an almost normal life.
The aim of this research is creating insect cyborgs, an idea that has been funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Lenka Halámková, Jan Halámek, Vera Bocharova, Alon Szczupak, Lital Alfonta, Evgeny Katz. Implanted Biofuel Cell Operating in a Living Snail. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2012; : 120308155036002 DOI:10.1021/ja211714w
You can find the article here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja211714w