While medical implants have been getting smaller and more efficient over the year, the batteries used to power them have not. Making them too small, however, severely reduces the expectant battery life and thus ups the likelihood of surgery to replace them. We can’t just cut out and eject power packs Terminator-style, so researchers have been looking at ways the human body could power the devices, and one such way is with our ears.
A report published in Nature Biotechnology explains how. The technology works by tapping into the electrochemical gradient that the body naturally maintains in the fluids of the inner ear, where the usual differences in charge would be decoded by the body in the form of sound waves.
So far having been tested by researchers in Boston, MA who attached the chip to a guinea pig and connected electrodes to its cochlea, the team managed to extract 1 nano watt of power of a period of five hours. While not brilliant levels of power by any stretch of the imagination, it is sufficient enough to power a radio signal, while the team remains optimistic that more power can be harvested if the technology is pushed into human trials.
The work being carried out continues the efforts we’re seeing across the board driven to make the body itself a power source – including those that found scope in a humans’ own heartbeat being used to power a pacemaker, or that which saw researchers utilising glucose from lobsters to generate significant levels of power - and with it, a tantalising future of cybernetic organisms looks increasingly likely.
Source: Technology Review