What if machines ran off biological fuel — blood sugar — from our bodies? Could we basically power gadgets on our increasing supply of body fat and Snickers bars?
The questions were thrown at me by our dear Brian Lam with a disclaimer of "I may have been under narcotic substances when I came up with this idea." But, despite that disclaimer, he's onto something. After all, we've looked at concept models of gadgets intended to be powered in that precise manner and there's been some success in recent bio-battery research. So, why aren't we using our bodies as power sources yet?
It turns out that the bio-batteries closest to reality at this time have a major problem with waste products. That waste is created as those particular batteries involve microbial yeast-based fuel cells that steal "some of the electrons produced when the yeast metabolises glucose" in order to create a small current. The entire process works just fine, but the yeast cells are at risk unless the waste products are removed. As the waste can't very well just be dumped into the bloodstream, a proper cleaning process needs to be invented. Until such a process is sorted out, the batteries could pretty much be considered either suicidal or homicidal in nature as either they die off or they poison your bloodstream while trying to survive.
That trouble aside though, the research is quite encouraging and a huge first step in the right direction. So while it may still be many years away, one day we will in fact sate both gadget lust and hunger in the same bite. Please pass me the Häagen-Dazs while I wait for that day when fat bottomed girls could really make the rockin' world go 'round. [New Scientist]