Cyborg snail gets biofuel cell implant


March 15, 2012

The cyborg snail with a biofuel cell implant that generates electrical power from glucose and oxygen in the snail's blood

The cyborg snail with a biofuel cell implant that generates electrical power from glucose and oxygen in the snail's blood

Earlier this year we reported that researchers had implanted a cockroach with an enzyme-based biofuel cell that could potentially be used to power various sensors, recording devices, or electronics used to control an insect cyborg. While it may not be the most dynamic of creatures, a team from Clarkson University has now performed a similar feat with a living snail.

The biofuel cell implanted into the snail by a team led by Evgeny Katz, the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science at Clarkson University, was able to operate continuously producing electrical power for most of the snail's six month lifespan, using only the snail’s physiologically produced glucose and oxygen in the snail’s blood as a fuel.

Through appropriate feeding and relaxing, the snail was able to regenerate the glucose consumed by the biofuel cell’s biocatalytic electrodes, before then producing another jolt of electrical energy whenever they are hooked up to an external circuit.

The team says the implanted biofuel cell would be able to operate in a natural environment, making it suitable for powering various bioelectronics devices. According to nature, Katz’s snails were capable of producing up to 7.45 microwatts, but this decreased by 80 percent after 45 minutes. Reducing the extracted power to 0.16 microwatts allowed for the drawing of continuous power.

With a view to extracting more power, Katz is looking to move onto larger animals with faster metabolisms – namely lobsters.

Katz’s research was published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Source: Clarkson University

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

This actually creeps me out. If the snail wanted it, it would ask for it...

I'd rather see the researchers drilling holes in each others skulls and getting their jollies through more "hands on" and "personal" applications of their own research.

Why not cut the tops of their own skulls to see if they can generate solar electricity by exposing their own brains to the sun....

That would be worthwhile research.

Mr Stiffy

Remaind me of "The Matrix".... Just like a battery cell...

Rosdeen Bassri

The ability to understand that a snail is asking for a battery hookup would be a whole other news story! On a seperate note, more in line with the article, if a snail is able to power something small like this, would it be feasible for humans to power low powered gadgets in the same way? Could powering a gadget simulate exercise (at least as far as reducing fat, rather than stimulation of muscles) by getting the body to convert it's own fuel reserves in a similar manner?

Paul Utry
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