People are batteries that can power your robotic hearts

A new range of artificial, electrically-powered organs are now under development, including hearts, kidneys, and bladder sphincter, and work has begun on fully-functioning artificial limbs such as hands, fingers, and even eyes. But they all have one Achilles heel: they need electricity to run.  The fuel cells are made from a compressed push of enzymes and carbon nanotubes.

At heart, biofuel cells are incredibly simple. They are made of two special electrodes – one is endowed with the ability to remove electrons from glucose, the other with the ability to donate electrons to molecules of oxygen and hydrogen, producing water.

Pop these electrodes into a solution containing glucose and oxygen, and one will start to rip electrons off the glucose and the other will start dumping electrons onto oxygen. Connect the electrodes to a circuit and they produce a net flow of electrons from one electrode to the other via the circuit – resulting in an electrical current.Glucose and oxygen are both freely available in the human body, so hypothetically, a biofuel cell could keep working indefinitely. “A battery consumes the energy stored in it, and when it’s finished, it’s finished. A biofuel cell in theory can work without limits because it consumes substances that come from physiological fluids, and are constantly being replenished,” said Dr Cosnier.


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