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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: The Bionic Snail
25 May 2012 2:20 pm
It's not speedier than normal, but it sure is powerful. By implanting enzyme-coated electrodes into a snail, researchers have turned the invertebrate into a tiny fuel cell. The enzyme coating one electrode triggers a chemical reaction that consumes glucose produced by the snail and generates electrons. A different enzyme coating the other electrode takes spare electrons and gives them to positive ions in the snail's hemolymph, the invertebrate equivalent of blood. Together, these reactions created a voltage difference between the electrodes of a little more than 0.53 volts, generating power of a few microwatts, the researchers report in Journal of the American Chemical Society. (For comparison, the power generated by the solar cells in calculators and watches often are measured in microwatts.) The snail-based fuel cell—the first such implant to operate for an extended time without harming its host animal, the researchers claim—provided power for months, with power dropping when the glucose supply lagged and then surging again after the snail rested or ate. Improving the efficiency of chemical reactions at the electrodes could garner more power. Future generations of such fuel cells could power pacemakers or insulin pumps, for example, eliminating the need to change batteries regularly. Or, the electricity generated by similar implants in creatures such as worms or insects could one day power spy cameras or tiny microphones, or drive sensors that monitor the environment. In the meantime, watch what you say: The snails may be listening.
See more ScienceShots.