Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

New Fuels: Biofuels: Real-life scientific tale of the first “electrified snail”

June 11, 2012


Real-life scientific tail of the
first “electrified snail”
Credit: American Chemical Society

Summary

The world’s first “electrified snail” has joined the
menagerie of cockroaches, rats, rabbits and other
animals previously implanted with biofuel cells that
generate electricity from natural sugar in their
bodies. These biofuel cells could someday serve as
energy for future spy cameras, eavesdropping
microphones and other electronics. Scientists are
describing how their new biofuel cell worked for
months in a free-living snail in the Journal of
the American Chemical Society
.

Today’s episode announces that the world’s first “electrified snail” has joined the menagerie of cockroaches, rats, rabbits and other animals previously implanted with biofuel cells that generate electricity from natural sugar in their bodies. These biofuel cells could someday serve as energy for future spy cameras, eavesdropping microphones and other electronics. Scientists are describing how their new biofuel cell worked for months in a free-living snail in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Evgeny Katz, Ph.D., who is with Clarkson University, and is the lead author of the paper, points out that many previous studies have involved “potentially implantable” biofuel cells. So far, however, none has produced an implanted biofuel cell in a small live animal that could generate electricity for an extended period of time without harming the animal — until now, says Katz.

“The snail we implanted with the biofuel cell will be able to operate in a natural environment, producing sustainable electrical micropower for activating various bioelectronic devices.”

To turn a living snail into a power source, the researchers made two small holes in its shell and inserted high-tech electrodes made from compressed carbon nanotubes.

“We coated the highly conductive material with enzymes, which foster chemical reactions in animals’ bodies. Using a different enzyme on each electrode, one pulling electrons from glucose and another using those electrons to turn oxygen molecules into water, we induced an electrical current.”

Importantly, the long-lasting enzymes could generate electricity again and again after the scientists fed and rested what they termed the “electrified” snail, which lived freely for several months with the implanted fuel cell.

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Katie Cottingham. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

empty
Evgeny Katz, Ph.D.,
Clarkson University,
Potsdam, New York
Credit: Christopher Lenney