Apr. 1 - Scientists in Sweden are developing wearable electronics that run on energy produced by naturally occurring chemical processes in the blood. Electricity harvested from glucose and oxygen can be stored in biofuel cells that the researchers say could be used to power pacemakers and other medical applications of the future. Jim Drury has more.
STORY: Scientists Sergey Shleev and Magnus Falk are quite literally putting blood, sweat, and tears into their work. The pair are developing what they call, 'biofuel cells' which will store energy harvested from naturally occurring chemicals in the body, such as glucose. Here they've attached two electrodes to a mixture of water and blood, to extract electrical energy from their chemical components, glucose and oxygen. SOUNDBITE (English) UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF MALMO PROFESSOR SERGEY SHLEEV SAYING: "On the one electrode we oxidise glucose and on the other electrode we reduce oxygen and then there is an electron flow from one electrode, which is called anode, to another electrode, which is called cathode, and the electron flow is an electrical current which we can use for different types of applications." Shleev says a battery - or biofuel cell - that can store that energy could work indefinitely to power wearable electronic devices like pacemakers, or smart contact lenses for diabetics that can detect glucose levels in tears and send warning signals to a mobile phone. SOUNDBITE (English) DOCTOR OF BIOMEDICAL TECHNOLOGY, MAGNUS FALK SAYING: "They (biofuel cells) are very easy to miniaturise so we can extract power from very small amounts. Of course the power will be lower but it can still generate power from low amounts of fluids." The researchers say the concept is in its infancy and they admit, it will require huge levels of funding before it can become commercially viable. But Shreev says the investment will be worthwhile. SOUNDBITE (English) UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF MALMO PROFESSOR SERGEY SHLEEV SAYING: "First, we use biological catalysts which are renewable and can be produced at very low cost. Second, our devices can be significantly miniaturised down to even nanometre scale. Third, our technology is green and environmentally and also body friendly since most of the products which are produced during the function are the same as in our body so it's fully ok to implant or to use outside of the body these devices." The next challenge for the scientists is to construct efficient, stable and reliable biofuel cells. It'll take time, but Schleev and Falk are convinced that the body can become its own source of limitless, renewable energy.