New biological power source shows promise to power medical implants


Researchers from Georgia Tech and Korea University have demonstrated a new biological fuel cell that incorporates gold nanoparticles on carbon fibres to convert sugars into electricity.  Assistant Professor Seung Woo Lee said,

“We could use this device as a continuous power source for converting chemical energy from glucose in the body to electrical energy.”

Combined with energy storage in supercapacitors or mini-batteries, such a fuel cell device could power a new generation of ultra-longevity medical implants. 

Existing pacemaker batteries achieve a decade or so of performance, requiring explantation and replacement, but biofuel cells might generate power for a patient’s entire lifespan.  The high porosity of cotton provides advantages over manmade nylon fibres, and there appears to be a biocompatibility advantage for natural fibres.  Gold particles of 8nm diameter yielded highly effective nano-electrodes of up to 3.7mW/cm2.  Results were published last week in Nature Communications.


This story is featured in the 23 November 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.