MIT Glucose Fuel Cell: Proof of Concept Power Source for Brain Implants

Andrei Marks · August 9, 2012

MIT researchers have developed a non-biological fuel cell capable of oxidizing glucose and producing up to a milliwatt of power. This particular study was unique because they used cerebrospinal fluid as a glucose source. For reference, there are hearing aids that run on less than a milliwatt of power, and a standard laser pointer requires about five milliwatts of power, and the PS3 Slim uses 96 watts while playing a game.

According to the paper’s authors (see below, first authored by Benjamin I. Rapoport), current implant technologies generally rely on single-use batteries or inductive power transfer. Of the three current paradigms for glucose fuel cells (solid state, bacteria, and enzymes fixed to a substrate), solid state is the least catalytically efficient but the most robust and safe system. They also emphasize that their fuel cell was created using standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques, meaning it could be easily integrated with silicon chips.

Fuel Cell Diagram from the paper:A Glucose Fuel Cell for Implantable Brain–Machine Interfaces: Diagram

However, while the authors believe that their chosen medium and materials are promising from a biocompatibility perspective, this was not an in vivo study. It was performed in vitro with artificial cerebrospinal fluid, though they provide mathematical models of likely behavior of their fuel cell in a biological environment.

Implications for brain implant gaming: a neat step, but not there yet.

Research article at PLoS ONE: A Glucose Fuel Cell for Implantable Brain–Machine Interfaces.

More information at Innovation Daily News: Cyborg Fuel Cell Powered by Brain Fluids

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