It’s a truly modern experience: losing battery power on your mobile device and searching desperately for a source of electricity. But what if that source was flowing through your veins? A team of researchers are looking to harness that power from within our own bodies, using power generators inside the bloodstream.
The team from Fudan University in China has developed a lightweight power generator that can convert flowing blood in vessels into power. This is made possible by a fiber made of carbon nanotubes, which are electroactive. In tests, this thread of fibers, called a “fiber-shaped fluidic nanogenerator” (FFNG), is attached to electrodes and immersed in a solution to imitate the bloodstream. According to the researchers, “The electricity was derived from the relative movement between the FFNG and the solution.”
The researchers were inspired by the concept behind hydropower, which uses flowing water or steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity. Like hydropower, blood-based electricity would be a source of renewable electricity not dependent on the weather, as solar and wind energy are.
The researchers stated that their method was able to harness twenty percent of the energy generated from a test with a saline solution, a far more efficient result than previous models.
The mechanical properties of the material will potentially allow it to have some interesting applications. For one, this could turn into an easy way to generate power for internal medical devices, like pacemakers. Additionally, according to the press release, “Other advantages are elasticity, tunability, lightweight, and one-dimensionality,” which could allow the material to be woven into fabrics, allowing you to power wearable devices using yourself as an energy source.
The device also has the upside of being stationary; proposed energy generators that floated in the blood raised concerns that they could lead to blood clots.
It’s understandable to question how much power could feasibly be generated by this technology when working with materials at this scale; so far, the method has only been successfully tested in a living body by using frog’s nerves. There will also have to be much more testing and a battery of regulatory approval before we could see this technology in use with humans. Still, even the medical applications alone leave plenty to be excited about. This single innovation could majorly revolutionize medicine and, more broadly, the way we generate and utilize energy.