What if machines ran off biological fuel—blood sugar—from our bodies? Could we basically power gadgets on America's increasing supply of body fat and Snickers bars?
The questions were thrown at me by our dear Brian Lam with a disclaimer of "I may have been under narcotic substances when I came up with this idea." But, despite that disclaimer, he's onto something. After all, we've looked at concept models of gadgets intended to be powered in that precise manner, by converting blood glucose into electrical current. There's also been some success in recent bio-battery research with yeast fuel cells. So, why aren't we sating both gadget lust and hunger in the same bite yet?
It turns out that the bio-batteries closest to reality at this time, the yeast cell ones, have a major problem with waste products. That waste is created as those particular batteries involve microbial yeast-based fuel cells that steal "some of the electrons produced when the yeast metabolizes glucose" in order to create a small current. While the entire process works just fine, the yeast cells are at risk unless the waste products are removed. We can't exactly let the waste be dumped into the blood stream, so until there's a some kind of cleaning process, the batteries are trouble as they either they die off or poison your bloodstream while trying to survive.
That trouble aside though, the research is quite encouraging and a huge first step. It may be many years until we can use bio-batteries, but I'll wait patiently with some Häagen-Dazs until the day that fat bottomed girls really make the rockin' world go 'round. [New Scientist]
Photo by Bare Conductive