Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Electrical Power From Humans

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the don't-give-them-any-ideas dept.

Biotech 220

Coisiche writes "The BBC covers a team of scientists who are working on a new way to power medical implants: an internal biofuel cell. From the article: 'Their gadget, called a biofuel cell, uses glucose and oxygen at concentrations found in the body to generate electricity. They are the first group in the world to demonstrate their device working while implanted in a living animal. If all goes to plan, within a decade or two, biofuel cells may be used to power a range of medical implants, from sensors and drug delivery devices to entire artificial organs. All you'll need to do to power them up is eat a candy bar, or drink a coke. ... In 2010, they tested their fuel cell in a rat for 40 days and reported that it worked flawlessly, producing a steady electrical current throughout, with no noticeable side effects on the rat's behavior or physiology.' Of course, there's never been a sci-fi movie using such technology as a plot device..."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Watch Out (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742124)

I'm pretty sure the Matrix is going to read this paper and keep it on file for later, after it's world domination plan is complete.

Re:Watch Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742396)

HAAHAH!!! A matrix reference!!! YEEEHAAAW!

Hugs and kisses,

Juan Epstein

Re:Watch Out (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 3 years ago | (#37742532)

Yeah, it'll just have to make sure we don't commit suicide first by blotting out the sun. Which would make humans utterly worthless as power sources.

You know, come to think of it I think the machines in that movie might have been right to subjugate the humans, if only for their own damn good. After all, what is the one thing on the planet (besides some deep sea vents) that can survive and operate, and has for hundreds of years, without the Sun? If you said "machines", congratulations! You are smarter than every single person in the Matrix.

But (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742546)

Could I graft a port on my hand somewhere so I could use this thing to power my cell phone while talking on it?

Or maybe....

Go go Gadget flashlight! :)

Re:But (2)

ZankerH (1401751) | about 3 years ago | (#37742948)

It doesn't even have to power anything but itself, I wouldn't mind having a few implanted to burn calories and help with weight loss.

Re:Watch Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37743026)

Man, imagine if we could harness the electricity of all those extra apostrophes people type every day!

Matrix flashbacks (1, Redundant)

neonv (803374) | about 3 years ago | (#37742132)

Next we build the machines that will one day make use of our technology to turn ourselves into batteries. On the upside, they will create the best online world ever ...

Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742522)

I for one welcome our smoking-hot-blondes-who-turn-into-agents overlords. *takes vow of celebacy*

Re:Matrix flashbacks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742530)

need a +1 'username has Neo in it' moderation

Re:Matrix flashbacks (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 years ago | (#37742974)

Best online world? Compared to what? The grind/fun ratio is worse than any MMO I've ever seen...

Obvious questions (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 3 years ago | (#37742148)

How much power is generated by the system? What is the efficiency? If science writers aren't going to include this kind of information in their articles, they could at least include a reference to the original paper for those of us who are interested.

Re:Obvious questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742536)

Totally agreed.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37742554)

I'd be interested in volumetric and mass power density. I know my body outputs about a watt per pound and generates about a hundred watts per cubic foot. If this is much higher or lower in either measure, its going to have interesting effects on the body. Otherwise the effect on the body will merely be like being that much fatter, mostly.

Being able to biologically power a LED light would be an interestingly useless hack.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

eclectus (209883) | about 3 years ago | (#37742726)

Useless hack? I'd love to have running lights....

Re:Obvious questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742770)

Being able to biologically power a LED light would be an interestingly useless hack.

Unless its dark.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | about 3 years ago | (#37742658)

How much power is generated by the system?

Enough to power an artificial urinary sphincter.

What, too much information?

Personally, my first question was more along the lines of what the waste products are. TFA mentioned water as one by-product.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) | about 3 years ago | (#37742952)

So how much power do you need to engage or disengage a urinary sphincter? A enough to power a single LED? Less? More?
As a comparative unit, I don't think "urinary sphincters" is going to get as much traction as flashlights or New York City for X days.

This is all fine and dandy, but my gut feeling is that some very simple physics and biology related problems are going to limit these things to little more than low output power supplies for simple implants and novelty bodymods.

Although I can think of a few really cool/useful bodymods related to LEDs or other extremely low power devices (e.g. LEDs in your face/hands for simple illumination, light-bright style LED pictures, etc.) These "biofuel" cells are unlikely to be able to recharge your phone or mp3 player. It's far more likely that your phone/mp3 player will simply get more energy efficient and lower power. Maybe in the unknowable future the twain shall meet, but for now it's most likely a pipe dream.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

iamhassi (659463) | about 3 years ago | (#37742752)

I want to know if it will help me lose weight while powering my iPhone or laptop

Full Story Trolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742150)

Of course, there's never been a sci-fi movie using such technology as a plot device...

Very nice.

only 1 step missing (2)

superwiz (655733) | about 3 years ago | (#37742156)

devices which do the opposite: convert power into biologically useful energy. after that, resistance is futile.

Phhht - I produce enough GAS to power a lawnmower (1)

Maow (620678) | about 3 years ago | (#37742168)

If I just collected it and ran a generator,...

World domination! Or a tidy lawn at least.

Really cool (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742170)

This can also be used to regulate blood sugar levels--a cure for obesity that allows people to still be lazy and eat a lot.

Re:Really cool (1, Funny)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | about 3 years ago | (#37742180)

and power their vehicles at the same time. My Ford Fusion gets 7km/chocolate bar!

Re:Really cool (1)

Adriax (746043) | about 3 years ago | (#37742550)

Wait two more years and your Ford Mr Fusion will get 8km/chocolate bar and another 2km from the wrapper.

Re:Really cool (0)

N0Man74 (1620447) | about 3 years ago | (#37742654)

I heard an interesting question raised several months ago. If obesity is on the rise, merely due to changes in having less active lifestyles, laziness, and lack of self-control, as many seem to assume, then why is there also a dramatic rise in infant obesity? Are babies today just more lazy and inactive than babies in the past?

I don't know all the answers, but it seems to be a valid question that suggests that there could be other factors in the rise of obesity, other than simply writing it off as character defects.

As for the article, all I have to say is...


Re:Really cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742816)

Well that one's easy: Lazy and/or busy parents. Today's two parents working 16 hours a day households don't have time to monitor their children, so the pantry is just permanently unlocked and kids graze all day. No surprise they are fat. As for infants, those same parents don't have the time to bottle feed (or, gasp, BREAST FEED) so they get their kids started on solid food ASAP. One family I know started their kids at 4 months. No wonder their kids are fat as hell.

Re:Really cool (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | about 3 years ago | (#37742822)

I'm sure it'll be blamed on climate change within a week. Oh wait, that causes shrinking animals... []

Re:Really cool (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 years ago | (#37743030)

Hey it's possible. If it's getting hotter of course you'll want to be less active.

Also I think your business was the first to do properly targeted spam on Slashdot, I first saw it about a year ago, it was an historic moment!

Re:Really cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742914)

Are babies today just more lazy and inactive than babies in the past?

1) Babies likely are less active. With pack-n-plays and other containment systems lazy parents can lockup their kids while they watch "Sing Like a Banshee" and other crap TV.
2) Same lazy parent may have the misconception that giving a large meal before bed will keep the baby asleep all night.
3) Society encourages fat babies... they're cute. Who doesn't like a Michelin-Man looking baby?
4) Greater use of formula, early introduction of cereals, other nutritional factors that are controlled by the parents.

Re:Really cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742966)

Are babies today just more lazy and inactive than babies in the past?

While it's far from a causal relationship, it's interesting to note that the start of the obesity epidemic in the US coincides very closely with the date when corn subsidies were enacted and US products started switching over to corn-based sweeteners. Also note that other countries, where traditional sweeteners are still used, have similarly-modern lifestyles without the same levels of obesity. The possibility of a link was enough to make me experiment with altering my diet and, after about 2 months of eating as little HFCS as I could manage, I'd dropped 10 lbs without any other conscious changes to my diet.

It's far from scientifically-significant, but my anecdotal experience has convinced me that obesity rates in the US are primarily the result of the HFCS that seems to be in everything we eat. People can argue that there's no difference at the molecular level all they want, but even if it's just the placebo effect, I've got 2-extra visible abs because I've dropped HFCS, so I'm sticking with my belief that its the main cause.

Re:Really cool (1)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#37742692)

Not just that, you could implant lasers above their eyes and have heat vision, just like superman!
Imagine, eyeing that piece of cold pizza, and realizing that by heating it up then eating it, you will actually lose weight! FTW!

Re:Really cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742784)

/Eyes the southern united states as a great new energy source

USB (2)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 3 years ago | (#37742190)

Next, a USB port in your belly button to charge your iPhone.

Re:USB (5, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 3 years ago | (#37742224)

Why do that?

Embed your iPhone into your chest cavity- put a speaker in your ear.

Rename it "I, Phone"

Re:USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742342)

Good call on that. Having the thing internal will prevent the screen from breaking all the time on that damn iPhone.

Re:USB (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 years ago | (#37742388)

Good call on that. Having the thing internal will prevent the screen from breaking all the time on that damn iPhone.

It will make for an even elevated sense of iEnvy though... Just imagine having a major surgical operation to install the iPhone 9 in your body only to have Robot Steve Jobs announce a week later that the iPhone 9S++ is out, with enhanced mind control and better support for "Device pairing".

Re:USB (1)

shmeeps (2406070) | about 3 years ago | (#37742442)

I don't know about you guys, but "device pairing" is incredibly important to me and my wife.

Re:USB (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 years ago | (#37742652)

Yeah imagine your disappointment when you see the "sorry, the device you are trying to pair with is not running iOS 13.3 or later... please dock the device and launch iTunes before proceeding"

Re:USB (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | about 3 years ago | (#37742430)

Good idea but Apple would never allow it.

Just think how hard it would be to convince people to buy the new and 'vastly' improved model every 6 months.

Re:USB (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | about 3 years ago | (#37742592)

Considering how eager people are to buy them now I doubt Apple would have any difficulty selling them. In fact if you purchase the Apple iChest (compatible with 10% of the hearts/lungs on the planet) you can simply reach in and pull out the old iPhone when you need to upgrade.

Re:USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742786)

No, you'll have to go to the Apple store and have a "genius" perform the swap, otherwise you void your warranty and your innards are subject to recall.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742604)

Re:USB (1)

alienzed (732782) | about 3 years ago | (#37742740)

or 'imaPhone'

Re:USB :p (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742842)

Dick Cheney already has a heart assistance pump that wirelessly phones home - but requires an external battery pack and pump to keep running.
The hacker fun here is to get its number and put it on an auto-dialer in Romania for heart-to-heart romantic chats.

Re:USB (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 3 years ago | (#37742924)

Embed your iPhone into your chest cavity- put a speaker in your ear.

Playing Angry Birds during meetings would be a bit more overt.

Re:USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742266)

Who needs external ports when you can simply be "I, Phone" ?
Then again, if Siri is an Agent...

Re:USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742408)

Funny you should mention that... We work near Wake Forest University, and there was an interview with a guy from the the nanomaterials lab who was working on commercializing a phone charger using body heat to trickle charge phone. Apparently, they have a few patents already, and a working prototype...

Check it out

resistance isn't futile! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742226)

turn up the resistance, burn more calories.

perfect dieting tool.

Implications for weight loss (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742240)

Just turn on the gadget and watch the pounds melt away (assuming you don't go into a coma from hypoglycemia first).

Speaking of which, while the ability to run off the body's own power sources is great, it does pose a bit of a risk...

Couch Power (3, Funny)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | about 3 years ago | (#37742250)

I, for one, look forward to quitting my job and simply setting myself on top of an inductive charging couch, watching TV, and eating as much fattening food as possible to sell my bio-power back to the grid. I aspire to one day becoming something like a defecating tree.

Re:Couch Power (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#37742328)

I have some really bad news for you, the money you make selling the power is not going to pay for the cost of the food. Now it might make for a neat diet and a little spare change, but that is about it.

Re:Couch Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742432)

Not to mention you'd probably end up with some pretty unpleasant optimization regimens. Eating only a nutrient sludge, lying under piles of specially designed lycra blankets, going long stretches without sleep (sleep burns precious calories!). No, best leave it to the bacteria

Re:Couch Power (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 years ago | (#37742474)

So? People over-eat now, not only are they not paid back for the food, they get incredibly expensive medical conditions. Lots of fake pills advertise the ability to increase your metabolism, but that's what this would actually do. Even if it just dissipated heat into your bloodstream ("wasting" the energy completely), it might be useful. Or harmful, of course.

Re:Couch Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37743002)

I love how the /. crowd all pretty much had the same first thought.... short circuit the damn thing, I'm going to Baskin-Robbins!!!

Who needs lap-band when you can set your metabalism to "marathon" on a 24/7 basis.

Re:Couch Power (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 years ago | (#37742444)

It runs on glucose (sugar) and oxygen... If you could afford to buy such a device, why bother putting it inside you? Just give the device the sugar and oxygen and keep your under-achieving meat bag out of the equation. Trust me, it will cost you less in the long run. Want to know what to do with all that fat? Invest in an at-home liposuction kit and start making "all natural" beauty soaps... I read this great how-to once...

As interesting as this is... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 3 years ago | (#37742254)

As interesting as this is, I wouldn't be surprised if we produce batteries before long that can store enough power for a lifetime.

Might be cheaper and easier to use a next-generation battery than a bio-generator.

Perhaps more reliable too.

Re:As interesting as this is... (1)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | about 3 years ago | (#37742290)

I'm confused. This is about power generation, not power storage. I don't think there are going to be any batteries capable of storing a lifetime's worth of energy anytime soon.

Re:As interesting as this is... (2)

very1silent (2194890) | about 3 years ago | (#37742406)

Radioisotope based generators do that just fine. They've even been implanted in people. For a while, they were the standard for how to power pacemakers. Then some patients got old and died. It turned out that properly disposing of the pacemaker meant cutting up the dead body. That caused relatives a lot of distress, so we discontinued use of radioactive power supplies for internally implanted devices.

Re:As interesting as this is... (1)

Toonol (1057698) | about 3 years ago | (#37742642)

What's the power density of fat? Not that different than gasoline, I'd think.

Ok, I googled it. Fat is 37 mj per kilo, gasoline is 47 mj per kilo. Not substantially different; it is certainly far more energy-dense than NmH batteries, which run about 300 kj. In fact, it's two orders of magnitude better. It's just getting the energy out of it that's troublesome.

Effects on People With Medical Issues? (1)

sehlat (180760) | about 3 years ago | (#37742268)

Uses blood glucose(BG) and oxygen to run? Fine.

What about diabetics, particularly those who are prone to sudden blood sugar drops? Or get sick and need all their energy to survive.

I can see adding a sensor to shut it down if the BG drops below, say 80, BUT

1. Add a secure, remotely-controlled STFU switch for medical emergencies


2. Do NOT use it at all for life-critical medical add-ons.

Re:Effects on People With Medical Issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742344)

You use the power to charge a battery which acts as a UPS. I'm guessing if you go long enough without proper glucose and oxygen levels to drain the battery then you're also a corpse. I'm also thinking that the clever designers have thought of the limitations of the device and this one probably doesn't break the top ten list.

Re:Effects on People With Medical Issues? (1)

sehlat (180760) | about 3 years ago | (#37742610)

The point of my question was: THINK this one THROUGH before using it.

Everybody's raising good comments about backup power supplies, alert monitors if the BG falls, etc. etc. But anything that runs on a life-critical system (and blood BG and O2 are surely life-critical) had darned well better be approached with caution, some well-validated simulations prior to usage, and lots and lots of after-checks to ensure the Demon Murphy doesn't get an opening.

Re:Effects on People With Medical Issues? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#37742356)

2b, use a local backup store of the chemicals needed that can last longer than any survival blood sugar drop. As soon as blood sugar is back in acceptable range start rebuilding local backup storage.

Re:Effects on People With Medical Issues? (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 3 years ago | (#37742502)

I wonder how strong a relationship there is between blood glucose level and the amount of energy these produce. If there is a measurable difference when you go outside the recommended BG range, you could hook the fuel cell to a sensor and warn the diabetic patient to take the appropriate action (eat something sugary or take some insulin) if the current indicates a BG level outside the recommended range.

It could mean an end to measuring using lancets and testing strips to test blood external to the body. In fact, if there was a way to expend (or store) the excess power the fuel cells could be used instead of or in addition to insulin to correct a high blood sugar level.

Re:Effects on People With Medical Issues? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37742596)

If the specific consumption per mass and volume is "similar" to human tissue, then its effect on the body would be about like a similar weight/volume of fat. I don't think they're planning on pulling 500 watts out of the thing anytime soon...

Agents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742278)

Is agent Smith behind this?

Application as a weight-loss device? (4, Interesting)

DriedClexler (814907) | about 3 years ago | (#37742308)

It seems like the usage of your body's energy is a feature, not just a cost. Would it be possible to have some device use as much energy from your body as possible so as to keep you from getting fat? And for a triple-play, how about if that energy could also be stored or transmitted for consumer use, displacing some of your expenditures on electricity?

Obviously, by that point the logistics would be a major issue, but it would be awesome if something could tackle the problems of implant powering, obesity, and energy all at once.

Re:Application as a weight-loss device? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 3 years ago | (#37742746)

How about eating less? That would tackle the problem of obesity as well.

Re:Application as a weight-loss device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742904)

Well, yes, but it's much less fun.

Re:Application as a weight-loss device? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742796)

Would it be possible to have some device use as much energy from your body as possible so as to keep you from getting fat?

Yes. They call it a bicycle.

And for a triple-play, how about if that energy could also be stored or transmitted for consumer use, displacing some of your expenditures on electricity?

If you travel a mile by bicycle, you can save 55 cents on gas and car maintenance.

not in the US... (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about 3 years ago | (#37742352)

Drink a Coke huh? Not in America. We use High Fructose Corn Syrup for most soft drinks. You want to power that baby, you'll need a Coke from Mexico. They actually use real sugar.

Re:not in the US... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#37742380)

Your body makes glucose out of that just fine. You even make glucose from non-carbohydrate sources when the need arises.

Re:not in the US... (1)

daenris (892027) | about 3 years ago | (#37742458)

You realize that most HFCS is made up of 40% or more glucose right?

Re:not in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742460)

Table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose

High fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose.


I'm sure our bodies are just struggling to figure out what to do with HFCS. It's amazing we don't just keel over the moment we ingest it.

Re:not in the US... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742748)

All that shows is that you don't even get real sugar in your sugar in the US.

Re:not in the US... (1)

daenris (892027) | about 3 years ago | (#37743004)

No... that's what table sugar is anywhere. When you see just "sugar" on an ingredients list, they're talking about sucrose, which breaks down into 50% fructose and 50% glucose.

Re:not in the US... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#37743058)

Still tastes like corn syrup. I don't know why you put up with it.

Bioelectrical diet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742382)

I'll just use it to burn up those extra calories.

I think it is great... (1)

captinkid (1224428) | about 3 years ago | (#37742386)

In Mother Russia battery charges off of you!

I can't imagine the electric companies will pay you enough to compensate for your time. $0.03/kwh for some .01/kwh of human output is NOT a productive activity.

As far as battery technologies, the most recent well used technology is Li-ion. and that was developed by Exxon in the 1970's, so I don't see much hope for a "new battery tech" to change anything.

Re:I think it is great... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#37742492)

I think LiFePO4 are newer than that. Wikipedia says 1996.

Great... (1)

tramusen (1993360) | about 3 years ago | (#37742426)

One step closer to real life being the same as Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I never asked for this.

Re:Great... (1)

cozzbp (1845636) | about 3 years ago | (#37742956)

The great thing about that game, is that more than any other Sci-Fi scenario, that is the one I image humanity actually drifting towards.

One monitoring implant please! (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | about 3 years ago | (#37742434)

I'd love an implant which would passively monitor my vitals, blood fat etc. levels and allow uploading through some kind of NFC solution. 10-20 years?

How do we turn it into a weight loss device? (1)

QuesarVII (904243) | about 3 years ago | (#37742446)

Add an outlet to it, and you'll be able to charge your ipod and lose a pound at the same time!

Does it work with beans? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 3 years ago | (#37742496)

With the right chili, you could power New York City for a night.

Hitting 2 birds with one shot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742510)

So this technology can basicly eradicate obesity and powershortage at the same time?

Weight Loss (1)

Mr. McGibby (41471) | about 3 years ago | (#37742544)

Would it be possible for this to work as way to increase the body's effective metabolism? Thereby allowing some folks with slow metabolisms to boost theirs?

Re:Weight Loss (2)

RobinEggs (1453925) | about 3 years ago | (#37742718)


A device like this breaks down glucose, which releases energy. If you couple that energy to building something else in your body, or use it to make electricity as the implant is doing, then that's fine. But breaking glucose to increase your metabolism will just lead to producing so much electricity in the implant that it starts fucking with your nervous system or even stops your heart (which would happen at much lower power levels than you'd think).

There's one more option for dispersing the excess energy you'd get from increasing your metabolism, of course: it could just be used as heat. But increasing your metabolism by simply turning up the thermostat is dangerous, and gets you much too hot very quickly. There's actually a drug called DNP that does just that, but making your mitochondria waste a lot of energy in the production of ATP. While DNP effectively increases your metabolism and was used as a weight loss drug in the 1930's, it also leads to cataracts and cases of lethal hyperthermia (translation: cooking yourself to death from the inside) so it was discontinued. Athletes and body builders still use it to burn fat fast, but it's really dangerous and can't be used on a regular basis.

Animals actually use special fatty tissues, called brown fats, that wastes energy in exactly the way that DNP would force your entire body to waste energy. It appears in babies or on vital areas in cold-weather animals as organic heating pads, and some animals also use it to regulate or recover from hibernation.

In a decade or two? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 3 years ago | (#37742552)

Oblig xkcd [] .

In the plus side, cellphone like devices will be even more obiquitous. In the minus side, a tinfoil hat won't be enough anymore, you could get implanted tracking devices for the rest of your life, that not just tell where you are.

Free radical and bombs. What could go wrong? (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | about 3 years ago | (#37742560)

This is a little scary. At the best of times their pathway will involve creating highly dangerous hydrogen peroxide as a primary product. Other normal biological processes make peroxide, too, but it's still scary shit. When you put hydrogen peroxide on a cut in your hand that bubbling your hear is the sound of the peroxide eating through the contents of every damaged cell in the place.

There's also the creation of superoxide radicals, singlet oxygen, etc. to consider. Any enzyme that binds oxygen or catalyzes oxygen-related reactions generates some of these free radicals here and there; it's just the way life works. Hemoglobin does it in blood cells, cytochrome oxidase does it in mitochondria while making bio-energy the old-fashioned way, and the glucose oxidase used in this fuel cell does it. And those free radicals can go through your DNA like a wood chipper through an IKEA end table.

Ultimately this story is a little ague, and the studies they describe aren't nearly long enough to have any idea whether the rate of free radical production is too high. The rat survived for 40 days, but we want to put this into people and let it work for 40 years.

And don't forget that glucose contains 100 times more energy than cells normally work with directly: living cells put glucose through dozens of intermediate chemical reactions, each harvesting just a bit of energy, to transform its 686 kilocalories per mole into a cellular energy source containing a safe, usable 7.3 kilocalories per mole. I'm not saying they don't know what they're doing, but using glucose for anything in living cells is like dismantling an artillery shell into a pile of fire starters. It's ridiculously complicated, and the biological mechanisms for doing it have been very, very highly conserved by evolution for billions of years, meaning there's one way to get it right and about a trillion ways (literally) to get it wrong. Starting with an existing enzyme lessens most of those concerns, but it's still a dangerous process and easy to fuck up.

Anyway, I'm not trying to piss on their parade or play the armchair academic here; I think this is great and I'm sure they know what they're doing. I just thought you'd be interested to know where the concerns are and why this is such an ambitious project.

powered by glucose (1)

slyrat (1143997) | about 3 years ago | (#37742568)

I am interested in what kind of loss of glucose it is on a per hour basis. It could have big impacts on patients that have insulin dependent diabetes. So for instance if you had an internal insulin pump that was powered by these type of bio fuel cells I have to wonder how it would change the insulin needed. This along with the potential to make a person need to eat more just to keep things powered inside of themselves. Small problems but still things that would be interesting to find out about.

Large scale energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742620)

Just clone a large number of animal stomachs [and whatever other components (or the whole animal)] (human ones will bring up all kinds of legal issues) put them in a building somewhere and setup machinery to feed them and take away to crap. There are probably animals that specialize in eating something we have lots of extra or could get easily to feed them.

Wala energy out of any in a wide variety of bio sources. Just setup near a places that generate the bio output and wala.

Not sure on the scale of power such devices could produce, but I'm sure someone else can fill in the details which will determine if this is stupid or not.

Application as fat loss device (0)

dhruba (2487066) | about 3 years ago | (#37742628)

I like sona belt with electric switch and used to loss my belly fat. This is a sky shop product, very effective. Swapan []

Obligatory (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 3 years ago | (#37742646)

In Soviet Russia....well, you know how it goes.

Bonking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37742738)

How will this work with bonking? The body shuts down to preserve glucose levels for the brain as a critical function. Endurance athletes are familiar with this when they "bonk" or "hit the wall". It's the body's response to preserve brain function. If a device continues to use glucose that's not shot down on low glucose levels, that could cause some not-so-desirable side effects...

one modified rat does not a breakthrough make (1)

vagn (2168) | about 3 years ago | (#37742820)

"Finally, the whole package is wrapped in a mesh that protects the electrodes from the body's immune system, while still allowing the free flow of glucose and oxygen to the electrodes. The whole package is then implanted in the rat."

That's really cool, if true. The chemistry for something like this has been around for a long time. The problem has been that the body tends to cover these devices in tissue or other material. (It's been a long time, and I don't remember the details.) If they have a way to keep the device clean for years (forever, really) then this will work. But, if tissue or other material builds up on it, and then falls off in chunks and enters the bloodstream it's going to block arteries causing heart attacks and/or strokes and eventually killing the host. One modified rat does not a breakthrough make.

No, there wasn't (2)

Prikolist (1260608) | about 3 years ago | (#37742926)

If memory serves me right, in Matrix the energy was generated off bioelectricity and body heat. Here, instead, is a biofuel cell powered by sugar and oxygen. That's like comparing a solar power cell to an internal combustion engine. Now what this invention does replicate is a parasitic organism, or, if the cell actually does something useful, a symbiotic organism.

Potential diabetes treatment? (1)

GarryFre (886347) | about 3 years ago | (#37742962)

Excess sugar in the blood can be damaging, the kidneys end up being damaged from over-work trying to excrete the excess sugar. Hmm, the possibilities.

Burn Calories... power your devices. (I Wish) (1)

Kaldesh (1363017) | about 3 years ago | (#37743080)

Eat a taco, recharge your smart phone from the caloric content.... sound's like a win win to me (jk)
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?