Patients with cardiac pacemakers and other implantable electronic medical devices end up requiring re-implantations when the batteries run out. While we’ve seen the slow but steady progress of battery technology, there’s a great deal of opportunity for harvesting electrical energy from the body and using it to power implants. To this end, scientists at the University of California Los Angeles and University of Connecticut have developed a “biological supercapacitor” capable of storing electrical energy inside the body using safe, non-toxic components, including the body’s own fluids.
Consisting of sheets of graphene, a material made of a flat sheet of carbon atoms, layered with a protein produced by the human body that acts as the electrode, a single capacitor is only a micrometer thick and can be connected in bunches to provide more electricity storage.
Bodily fluids, such as blood serum or urine, are used as the electrolyte within the capacitors to help guarantee safety. To evaluate any toxicity, the researchers exposed mouse embryo fibroblasts and cultures of monkey kindey cells to the material comprising the new capacitors, demonstrating no apparent toxicity whatsoever.
The researchers hope that the new capacitors will be paired with an internal energy harvester, that uses heat or movement, to provide a reliable system for implantable medical devices.
Study in journal Advanced Energy Materials: Ultrathin Graphene–Protein Supercapacitors for Miniaturized Bioelectronics…