Blood Powerd Batteries. Does that mean I’ll be drained?

26 11 2007

Could blood be used to power batteries?

by Jacob Silverman

“Batteries are practically essential devices but present a whole host of problems. Over time they can have trouble retaining a charge. Some stop working altogether. Others overheat or leak or even explode. They’re also rigid and sometimes bulky. Then how about, instead of your standard AA or lithium-ion, a flexible, incredibly thin battery that could be powered by blood or sweat? Seems like an improvement, right?

Battery Image Gallery

Credit: Image courtesy Rensselaer/Victor Pushparaj
RPI’s battery is paper-thin, can be cut into a variety of shapes
and runs on blood or sweat. See more battery images.

A group of scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute claims they’ve created just such a battery, one that uses the electrolytes naturally found in bodily fluids. The results of the research, detailed in the Aug. 13, 2007, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are generating some excitement as part of a new crop of “bio-batteries” that run off of bodily fluids or other organic compounds. (The RPI team claims that theirs could even run on tears or urine.)

The battery is not only as thin as paper; it essentially is paper. At least 90 percent of the battery is made from cellulose, which makes up traditional paper and other paper products [source: RPI]. Aligned carbon nanotubes make up the other 10 percent, give the paper its conductive abilities and also make it black. The nanotubes are imprinted in the very fabric of the paper, creating what’s called a nanocomposite paper. One of the paper’s authors said that the battery “looks, feels and weighs the same as paper” [source: RPI].

Using nanotechnology, the battery’s small size, flexibility and replenishing electrolyte source — that is, as long as you eat — make it ideal for medical applications. When using the battery away from the human body, scientists soaked the paper in an ionic fluid (a salt in liquid form), which provides the electrolytes.

The battery’s paper-like construction grants it significant flexibility. The RPI research team believes that the battery could, in the future, be printed in long sheets, which could then be cut into small, custom-shaped batteries. The nanocomposite paper can have holes poked in it or be cut into unusual shapes and continue to function. Several sheets could be lumped together to power medical implants, such as pacemakers, artificial hearts or advanced prosthetics. The battery would easily fit under the skin without causing any discomfort…”

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