The pace of technology never seems to slow, especially when it comes to advances in the field of medicine. As we move further into an age of alternative energy sources and the interfacing of biology and tech, scientists have reached an interesting crossover. Sure, we joke about how technology has become an inseparable part of our lives, but the researchers in China have brought this to a whole new, and bizarre, level. Here we’ll take a look an amazing device able to generate electricity from the bloodstream.
Can We Generate Electricity from the Bloodstream?
So picture this — your phone dies after using the GPS in a new city for your latest locum tenens physician job. Instead of holing up in a cafe for a quick charge, you’re able to plug into your bloodstream to accumulate some valuable battery life. Sound impossible? Well right now it is, but researchers from Fudan University in China are getting a little closer…
Remarkably, a team has actually developed a lightweight power generator capable of converting the flow of blood in vessels to a source of harnessed electricity. Using a carefully engineered series of fibers known as “fiber-shaped fluid nano generators” (FFNG) which are attached to electrodes immersed in a solution that mimics the bloodstream, their studies have shown this technology in action.
Similar to the way that hydropower works on a large scale — turbines turned by the motion of flowing water — blood-based electricity could eventually become a renewable source of energy independent of the current weather conditions, unlike solar and wind.
The Recent Improvements
Researchers stated that they were able to harness 20 percent of the energy generated using their saline solution, which is far more efficient than previous attempts. But, what exactly would anyone want to power things with their blood? The main application of this technology is aimed at internal medical devices such as pacemakers. Although beyond the main usage for devices that require a constant energy source in order to provide life-saving services, the researchers are hopeful that this technology can be expanded into a consumer technology space as well.
They claim that “other advantages are elasticity, tunability, lightweight, and one-dimensionality,” meaning that there is the potential for this technology to actually be woven into fabrics. This would allow people to power wearable devices using their own kinetic movement as an energy source.
Unlike previous attempts to generate electricity from the bloodstream, the FFNG has the advantage of being stationary. Energy generators floating in the bloodstream raised concerns over potential blood clots, which would absolutely be a step in the wrong direction.
A Merged Future
Still, there is a long way to go before anything like this is readily available to medical professionals and internal medical device makers. At this point, it’s still a question of how much power can be feasibly generated by technology this small. The only current successful test involving a living organism was that of energy generated from a frog’s nerves, although the potential medical applications of this type of technology is still quite astounding.
To generate electricity from the bloodstream represents the latest in how scientists are thinking about the merging of humankind and machine. Other methods of harnessing electricity by way of the human body include piezoelectric energy, using body heat, and the general movement of going about your everyday tasks. With Tesla CEO, Elon Musk making claims that we’ll be merging our brains with machines within a decade, we’ll undoubtedly see lots of similar pieces of technology emerge in the very near future.
Are you ready for the merge of humans and machines in the field of medicine? Let us know in the comments below!