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Powered By Lobster: Scientists Generate Electricity From Living Beings
September 8, 2012
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What if you could turn a crustacean into a battery?

That might sound like a silly question. But it could help to change the lives of people who rely on medical electronics like pacemakers and other artificial organs.

Researchers at three universities - Clarkson, Case Western Reserve, and Joseph Fourier in France - recently figured out a way to harvest power from living organisms, like the lobster above, and this snail:

power-snail-feature-1.jpg

While the energy produced isn't huge (the lobster created a charge that's about a third the voltage of a AAA battery), it does have the benefit of being renewable. A standard battery will run down and stop working, but the energy produced by living organisms continues as long as the organism is alive.

If the researchers can successfully develop the technology, they might be able to build a pacemaker that runs on human energy. In other words, it would run on the energy produced by the actual person who has the pacemaker, rather than using an external battery.

Here are a few of the creatures the researchers have gotten power from.

Clams

power-clams-feature.jpg

Scientists linked three clams from the grocery store and used the energy to power a small electric motor. At their peak, the clams produced 37 microwatts of energy.

Rat

Researchers placed electrodes in the abdomen of a one-pound rat for a three-month period, and harvested electricity from the rat's blood. It sounds gruesome, but this was the experiment that convinced the scientists that it could be possible to develop self-powered artificial organs.

Lobster

power-lobster-feature.jpg

The research team implanted electrodes in the animal's back to power a biofuel cell, which produced a small but steady charge.

Snail

power-snail-feature-2.jpg

Here's a little reminder to eat your vegetables: the researchers found that the snail was able to produce enough energy to run a pacemaker when they fed it carrots.

Related stories on Strombo.com:

THIS WEEK IN ECOTECH: Wastewater to Electricity, CO2 to Stone, and Edible Packaging

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