The humble snail has been transformed into a cyborg of sorts after researchers of Potsdam’s Clarkson University implanted it with a battery and used its own blood sugar to recharge it. If the little creatures can successfully generate enough power to drive microelectronics, they could very well act as mini detectors or living sensors for Homeland Security and the US military.
The snail was found to be able to generate electricity for the batteries after the experts harnessed its blood sugar. Its body was implanted with electrodes developed using thin films of carbon nanotubes called Buckypaper. These electrodes conduct electricity when mixed with certain enzymes like glucose sugar and oxygen that circulate in the snail’s hemolymph or blood.
The snails, meanwhile, managed to go about their business relatively normally despite being implanted with the batteries. Resting and eating allowed them to build glucose levels, which in turn recharged the batteries. It’s reported that the snail survived for a few months as a tiny cyborg.
Of course, the electricity generated wasn’t substantial by far. It was much below that of a AAA battery. But, the fact that the experiment worked is proof that snails and other small creatures could be used to produce sustainable power for wireless transmitters and sensors.
Professor Evgeny Katz and his team along with colleagues from Israel’s Ben Gurion University are looking to further develop their findings and have already experimented with different substances in small creatures.
The team isn’t the only one trying to find ways to generate sustainable energy. The US military’s research arm, DARPA, has already funded research for piezoelectric generators that can convert pressure from the motion of another cyborg beetle’s wings. While piezoelectricity needs pressure in order to be generated, implanted biofuel cells can run as long as the host produces sufficient fuel. This is only conjecture but it provides some interesting insight into the various ways sustainable energy can be generated.