The limited capabilities of batteries are the bane of all gadgets, but they’re particularly problematic for devices designed to be implanted into humans where simply plugging in a charging cable is impractical. So MIT researchers have nearly perfected a new type of fuel cell that’s powered by glucose instead.
The whole idea of a sugar-powered fuel cell actually dates back to the 1970s, but recent advancements in silicon technology have allowed the cells to be created from non-organic materials that won’t break down in the body. The cell uses a platinum catalyst, mounted on a microchip, to strip electrons from glucose harvested from the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain. The total energy yield is only about a few hundred microwatts, so it doesn’t generate enough juice to power something like a pacemaker, but it’s more than enough to keep neural implants running. It could potentially help people suffering from brain or spinal cord injuries regain some control of their bodies. [MIT News via Fareastgizmos]