Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/29/princeton_jub_leccy_bonanza/

Silicone implants that generate 'leccy invented for US spooks

Katie Price will never need to buy batteries again

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 29th January 2010 10:31 GMT

In news sure to delight topheavy Z-list celebrities everywhere, US boffins funded by shadowy federal agencies say they have developed a new kind of silicone implant which can generate electrical power from the movements of the bodily area in which it is placed.

The new technology, developed at Princeton University in the States, involves adding piezo-electric lead zirconate titanate (PZT) to silicone, creating a material which generates electricity when squeezed, mashed or wobbled.

"Because the silicone is biocompatible, it is already used for cosmetic implants," note the Princeton engineers.

"Natural body movements [could] power pacemakers, mobile phones and other electronic devices."

"The new electricity-harvesting devices could be implanted in the body to power devices perpetually, and the body wouldn't reject them," adds Michael McAlpine, Princeton engineering prof.

The boffins describe their revolutionary new implantable power-generation tech as "piezo-rubber chips".

"The beauty of this is that it's scalable," said Yi Qi, a postdoctoral researcher who works with McAlpine. "As we get better at making these chips, we'll be able to make [the power units] larger and larger."

Exact performance figures on the kit aren't given, but it seems that some users at least might be able to generate substantial amounts of power. Famously be-funbagged cross-platform media node Katie Price/Jordan, for instance, was memorably described as nothing more than "two bags of silicone" recently - she would presumably be able to jumpstart a truck merely by loosening her lingerie and doing a few brisk knee bends.

Intriguingly in this context, the Princeton team specifies that the kit can also work in reverse, rather as a normal electrical generator can also function as a motor. If power is supplied to the silicone piezo-modules from an external source, they can be made to flex, bulge or oscillate.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, McAlpine and his colleagues' research was funded by the United States Intelligence Community - "a cooperative of federal intelligence and national security agencies".

Just why the US spooks would be looking into perpetual in-body power supplies is unlikely to be revealed. However, the possibilities range from cybernetically enhanced super-agents to the rumoured existence of implantable tracker bug technology of some kind, perhaps placed in or on prisoners during the Wars on Stuff. ®