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Snails in a Race for Biological Energy Harvesting

Tinkering could tailor snails to spy for us

3 min read
Snails in a Race for Biological Energy Harvesting

04NW.SnailPower.ClarksonUniversity

Photo: Clarkson University
Tinker, tailor, soldier, snail: A fuel cell made from enzyme-equipped buckypaper electrodes generates electricity when implanted into a snail. It might be enough energy to turn the creatures into sensor-laden slimy spies. Click on image to enlarge.

4 April 2012—Bioengineers are getting better at replacing and enhancing body parts, but so far they’ve struggled to power implantable bionics without resorting to clunky batteries. But because blood carries energy in the form of electron-rich molecules like glucose and delivers it to all parts of the body, it is a tempting target for researchers. Chemist Evgeny Katz of Clarkson University, in Potsdam, N.Y., and his colleagues recently tested a new kind of electrode, which, when implanted in Neohelix albolabris snails and immersed in the snails’ blue, bloodlike hemolymph, produced a small, steady supply of electricity over a period of months. The researchers reported the work in March in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Greg Mably


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