Scientists have created a biofuel cell that lives inside a snail.
It’s not just to be a mad scientist–the snail’s electricity can be used to power tiny video cameras. The next snail you see might be a spy.
Harnessing power from the natural world has long been a dream for humans, and between solar, geothermal, and other sources, we’re getting closer. Soon, there may be more power available–from the world of small shelled creatures.
Researchers from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, reported that they implanted a biofuel cell into a small snail. It’s the first time an implanted cell has continued to operate inside a living thing, using the snail’s own glucose to produce electrical power. The amount of power is small, of course, but eventually such creatures could be sent out into the world to search-and-rescue or spy on an enemy, using their new electrical abilities to power “various bioelectronic devices.”
The process sounds a bit Franken-snail-ish. The researchers inserted two enzyme-coated electrodes through the shell of a snail into a space between the shell and the body, where glucose is present, produced by the snail for its own biological purposes. As the snail slithers around, the enzymes create a chemical reaction that produces tiny amounts of electricity from the glucose.
If that seems mildly nefarious, it might be because such projects in roboticizing small creatures are funded by a DARPA research program in Hybrid Insect Micro Electromechanical Systems, which is working on “developing technology to provide control over insect locomotion, just as reins are needed for effective control over horse locomotion.”
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