Glucose: it gives us that extra spike of energy, powers our cells, and soon, it might even power implantable medical devices. A team of researchers from Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France recently implanted the first working glucose biofuel cell in a living animal (in this case, a rat) — a feat that proves electrical power can be harnessed from body fluids.
The researchers’ device featured enzymes inside graphite discs that in turn were put inside dialysis bags. The device was implanted in the abdominal cavity of two rats, where the enzymes triggered the glucose to oxidize, ultimately generating electrical energy. Results were promising — the device managed to output 6.5 microwatts, which is slightly less than the 10 microwatts required by pacemakers. One of the rats had glucose in its urine for three months, which means that the device lasts for a significant amount of time.
If the research team is able to improve efficiency, similar biofuel devices could be used to power everything from insulin pumps to bone-growth stimulators. Next up: testing the device in larger animals (humans, perhaps?), and streamlining its design.