Power generation via synthetic biology?
  • LeslieJMLeslieJM May 2016
    Hello, I am back and with an idea that I would like to hear the plausibility of that I have been getting for the past few months (even though; knowing how bright you guys can be I think this may have been discussed before but none the less I want to spark discussion). Implants need power and conventional batteries and generators are too bulky or hazardous (contain harmful chemicals or contain too many moving parts) to power an implant that might require a good deal of it. So why not borrow from nature? Why not modify the electrocytes harnessed by electric fishes to be compatible with the human body and to bind directly to electrodes on the implant(s) so that excess foodstuffs that are not harnessed by the body get used by the implanted electrocytes which in turn convert the ATP produced from those food stuffs to electricity for the implants. Ideas, problems, concerns?
  • You are correct that it has been talked about. I think the current belief is that you will essentially be harming yourself by removing it from the system. I think the other side of it is that you won't be able to generate enough ATP to truly power anything substantial in the way of implants which goes back to the harmful to your body.

    I'm not sure about the electric fish thing but I feel like that would require gene mods to accomplish.

    Obviously I could be wrong and as alway I suck with biology.
  • Arkcon10Arkcon10 May 2016
    god iv'e been thinking about this for the longest time honestly, essentially the current thesis for biological power is to create e-coli bacterium that are encoded to work similarly or the same to eel cells to allow for electricity to be formed from glucose. the other idea iv'e seen come up alot is creating a synthetic "bio-battery" thats made biologically compatible so that glucose can pass in and be formed within said battery into atp (essentially the bio battery is a very tightly compressed version of the same organ the electric eel uses thats just been made compatible to not be rejected by our cells which essentially acts as an engine that takes in the fuel and pumps out electrical current) the problem with these ideas is harnessing said electricity thats being created, efficentlly because with e-coli bacteria there just going to float around in your body and with the battery, how do you make it connected to something to power it and how do you get the glucose to flow through said battery. its not exactly easy to create stuff like this either so i wouldn't exactly count on any of these ideas working out soon

  • chironexchironex May 2016
    you're all so off it's hilarious. Fuck the eels. they work on a very specific highly complex system. Won't be useful. You'll never get ecoli to do that. HOWEVER. there are a variety of bacteria that will already produce power and some that can conduct electricity. I'm hoping to use them to power a building, but I'm sure I could miniaturize it to fit in an implant. It's something I've been toying with for a while. It'll be a fair bit down the line as I've got too much other stuff going on at the moment. But ya I was hoping to use a similar concept in my first go at a technoorganic implant. Although ideally I'd just borrow the functional pieces and put them in some of the protocells I've been designing. House them in the implant core and siphon a small amount of glucose. A simple membrane ought to due to let glucose in. You'd have to eat a bit more but for a tiny implant it should be sufficiently powerful without draining your fluids. Although technically you can accomplish the same thing (and it's been done) using platinum and carbon nanotubes. I was only looking at the bacteria/protocells since they'd be able to repair themselves (and technoorganic implants are cool). 
  • Hey I wasn't far off I knew you had something ;)

    There's a reason I alway put a disclaimer after anything biology haha. Although I know that it was talked about in a different thread.
  • So, what kind of voltage/current output does that platinum/cnt system dish out?
    I've toyed with using electrocytes for the purposes of giving people the ability to generate large arcs of electricity, and that sort of thing, but never really did pursue the idea seriously.
  • chironexchironex May 2016
     You'll never produce that level of power. It'd be enough to power a small implant. probably a volt or two, fairly low current.link to article
  •    I am unsure how biological power induction could be accomplished unless it was thermal based or maybe a small scale electromagnetic charge via magnetic implants.

       I would think a shielded radioactive nuclide could be encapsulated in lead oxide glass as was done with the "Firefly tattoos" and used as a power source for an implant.


  • ZerbulaZerbula June 2016
    @PostHumanist, If I recall, the amount of energy generated from the phosphorous/tritium is a tiny tiny amount of power, not enough to power anything reasonable in size for the size of the supply.  

    Now... I won't speak for any other kind of radioactive source. but I would be very afraid of what happens if one of these fails over a conventional battery.  >~< but this seems cool. :3
  • Dr_AllcomeDr_Allcome June 2016
    @chironex have you've seen this article?
    "High volumetric power density, non-enzymatic, glucose fuel cells"
    http://www.nature.com/articles/srep01226 it looks to be a very promising approach.

    You mentioned a protocell project, my reading on that topic has been thin so any links/references you could recommend would be appreciated... I've always been a little unsure about the longevity of a lipid based structure exposed to the bloodstream tho...  

  • I've got to side with @chironex on this one. Fish electrocytes are very complex and in animals that use it, the entire organism and its behaviors are modified to make sure that it works.

    As fun as it might be to think about people harnessing meaningful amounts of electricity or electricity-conducting organisms they'd almost always consist in the subject constantly electrocuting themselves because their bodies weren't balanced correctly. Even if we utilized special bacteria, there are massive hurdles in making sure the ones introduced in humans stayed in the correct area and didn't start screwing with the power supply in the wrong places. Our nerves could misfire or become degenerated and there could be heart damage over time if we played with it too much.   

    Sure small amounts for localized implants would make sense, but I feel like by the time we get to the point that technology is available, the application will seem obsolete.