Feeds

In-body electric eel tech to make 'leccy from body fat

mp3 charger name forecast: iSingTheBodyElectric™

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

US scientists believe it could be possible to use artificial electric eel cells grafted into the human body to generate power for cybernetic implant devices. The pseudo-electrocytes would harvest the necessary energy from body fats and sugars.

Engineer David LaVan of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) co-authored the new research with Jian Xu of Yale Uni.

“Do we understand how a cell produces electricity well enough to design one—and to optimize that design?” asks LaVan - and his answer appears to be yes.

It seems that electric eels use thousands of specialised cells - electrocytes - to turn a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) into electrical potentials of up to 600 volts. The ATP is synthesized from fats and sugars present in the body. The electrocytes are simply a differently-specialised variant on normal nerve cells, optimised for higher power on a slower cycle rather than rapid low-power pulses.

LaVan and Xu, having done detailed modelling, believe that improved, artificial electrocytes suitable for implanting in humans could be produced. They think that a 4mm cube of stacked pseudo-cells could offer continuous power output of 300 microwatts, offering the potential to sustain small medical devices.

The necessary ATP, according to the two researchers, would be produced from fats and sugars present in the body "using tailored bacteria or mitochondria".

There are obvious implicit possibilities for implanted electroshock weaponry, body-powered smartphones etc, assuming the tech scales up - but that's the least of it. There would also be (cough) enormous potential in other areas such as slimming.

People might even be able to earn a little money from their internal electrocyte powerpacks in the proposed "smart grid" future, by plugging themselves into the wall overnight and selling their cellulite to the power company*.

Insert your Matrix references in the comments section by all means. The paper in question is: J. Xu and D.A. LaVan, Designing artificial cells to harness the biological ion concentration gradient. Nature Nanotechnology, published online: September 21, 2008. ®

Bootnote

*Only kidding. Fit humans do well to push out sustained power of 100 or 150 watts - equivalent to one bright filament lightbulb - during hard athletic endeavour. Even if the eel-implant tech works, it seems unlikely that you'd ever make much of a dent in your electricity bill by such means. You'd be looking at 1p/hour plugged in at the outside.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Man FOUND ON MOON denies lunar alien interface
'The UFO people were very very angry with me' Buzz Aldrin tells Reddit
Would it be BAD if the Amazon rainforest was all FARMS? Well it WAS, once
Used to be all fields round here: Jungle tribesman saying
Beer in SPAAAACE! London Pride soars to 28,000m
Sadly, no in-flight footage of audacious stratobooze mission
'BIGGEST BIRD EVER': 21-foot ripsaw-beaked flying HORROR
Fossil avian cruised above sea like toothy ekranoplan
Help us out readers: How would you sniff and store network traffic?
Phase two of our deep desert project needs your wisdom
Boffins urge European Commission to reboot electric brain project
Billion-Euro simulated mind project criticised for narrow thinking
World Meteorological Organization says climate data is uncool
Weather wonks call for more frequent collation of climate baselines
Going up: Fancy a virtual flight to 30km above the PLANET?
Space boffin rattles tin for immersive Oculus Rift experience
In space no one can hear you scream, but Voyager 1 can hear A ROAR
Boffins now very, very, sure craft is in interstellar space, and it's picking up 'sounds'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem
Download this brochure to find five ways HP BladeSystem can optimize your business with the power of one.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.