An air-breathing bio-battery has been constructed by researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.
The core element providing the new power source with relatively high voltage and long lifetime is a carefully designed cathode taking up oxygen from air and composed of an enzyme, carbon nanotubes and silicate.
People are increasingly taking advantage of devices supporting various functions of our bodies. Today they include cardiac pacemakers or hearing aids; tomorrow it will be contact lenses with automatically changing focal length or computer-controlled displays generating images directly in the eye. None of these devices will work if not coupled to an efficient and long-lasting power supply source. The best solution seems to be miniaturised biofuel cells consuming substances naturally occurring in human body or in its direct surrounding.
Researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw developed an efficient electrode for the use in construction of biofuel cells or zinc-oxygen biobatteries. After installation in a cell, the new biocathode generates a voltage, during many hours, that is higher than that obtained in existing power sources of similar design. The most interesting is that the device is air-breathing: it works at full efficiency when it can take oxygen directly from the air.
Common batteries and rechargeable batteries are unsuitable to power implants inside the human body as they use strong bases or acids. These agents can on no account get into the body. The battery housing must be therefore absolutely tight. But in line with reducing the battery size, it must be better isolated. In extreme cases, the weight of the housing of a common, miniaturised battery would be even a few dozen times greater than the weight of the battery’s active components that generate electricity. And here biofuel cells offer an essential advantage: they do not require housing. To get electricity, it is enough to insert the electrodes into the body.
“One of the most popular experiments in electrochemistry is to make a battery by sticking appropriately selected electrodes into a potato. We are doing something similar, the difference is that we are focusing on biofuel cells and the improvement of the cathode. And, of course, to have the whole project working, we’d rather replace the potato with… a human being”, says Dr Martin Jönsson-Niedzió?ka (IPC PAS).
via Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences & AlphaGalileo
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