Eel’s Electricity For Powering Implants
Artificial versions of the eel’s electricity generating cells can be used as a power source for medical implants and other tiny devices, suggests a study.
The paper, according to NIST engineer David LaVan, says that there are at least seven different types of electrical channels in eels, each with several possible variables to tweak, such as their density in the membrane.
LaVan and partner Jian Xu developed a complex numerical model to represent the conversion of ion concentrations to electrical impulses and found that substantial improvements are possible. In one design, an artificial cell generated 40% more energy in a single pulse than a natural electrocyte.
In principle, stacked layers of artificial cells in a cube slightly over 4 mm on a side are capable of producing continuous power output of about 300 microwatts to drive small implant devices. The individual components of such artificial cells already have been demonstrated by other researchers. Like the natural counterpart, the cell’s energy source would be adenosine triphosphate (ATP), synthesized from the body’s sugars and fats.