Scientists Developed Electric Eel-Inspired Devices to Power Heart Pacemaker

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Researchers from University of Fribourg, Switzerland reported that they have developed el eel inspired flexible electric battery to power heart pacemakers and various medical implants

The study was published online in journal Nature on February 22, 2018. Scientists presented their work at Biophysical Society in San Francisco. The institute was focused on utilizing ion concentration gradient for performing task using electricity generation. Research team used hydrogel to develop sheet-like batteries. Although these batteries are biocompatible and flexible, they are not similar to conventional lithium-ion fuel cells. The soft power source utilizes various salt concentrations to generate electricity using reverse electrodialysis. Researchers reported that they could generate 110 volts of energy by using salt and water on a sheet, which was the size of normal printer paper.

The power generated by ions in the battery through friction between gel layers was roughly equal to amount on electricity provided by domestic wall sockets. “In this regard, the electric eel is an excellent model system, as it is able to generate immense amounts of electric power solely from the ion gradients present within its body,” said Anirvan Guha, one of the lead researchers involved in project. “We therefore set out to understand how the eel produces such a large amount of electricity, which ultimately guided the design of our system.”

Although the resulting device doesn’t physically resemble an electric eel in shape, the material is similar to the layers of skin in the electric eel that generate the electricity. However, team is working on addressing the challenges involved in generation of power such as incorporating the device in pacemaker for medical applications. “One of the primary challenges toward making this a reality in terms of incorporating it into pacemakers is improving the current generation of the system to a point where it could be used to power these types of devices,” Guha said.


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