Batteries Fueled on Blood

April 5, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver announced they have developed a tiny fuel cell that uses brewer’s yeast feeding on the sugar in human blood to generate electricity.

A staining substance commonly used by biologists, methyl blue, “steals” electrons from the yeast’s breakdown of sugar, creating a tiny generator.

The fuel cells are designed for use in pacemakers and other implantable medical devices where changing the battery is inconvenient at best. A small colony of yeast lives inside each battery, and this living core of the fuel cell can draw energy from glucose (sugar) in blood flowing around it. According to  Mu Chiao, who co-authored the paper published in a recent issue of the Journal of Microelectrical Systems with Chin-Pang-Billy Siu, also at UBC:

The yeast-based fuel cell produces around 40 nanowatts of power, compared to the microwatt a typical wristwatch battery might produce, Chaio says. That might be enough power for some devices if it were coupled with a capacitor to allow energy to be stored. The yeast could also be genetically engineered to boost its power output.

The work is considered a first step in the right direction, but challenges remain such as removing waste products without allowing any harmful substances to spilling out into the blood stream.
via New Scientist


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