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MM: Electric Eel Inspired Power Source

Looking to nature for inspiration, a team of scientists are developing a bio-friendly power source, similar to the way electric eels generate power.

Looking to nature for inspiration, a team of scientists are developing a bio-friendly power source, similar to the way electric eels generate power.

Electric eels use cells called elctrocytes to generate voltage. The cells create electricity by allowing sodium ions to rush in one end and potassium ions to rush out the other, all at the same time. Alone, each cell doesn’t produce a lot of voltage, but together an eel can generate as much as 600 volts.

Researchers based out of the University of Michigan, University of California-San Diego and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland recreated this effect using hydrogel printed on clear plastic sheets. When the blobs came into contact with each they were able to generate 100 volts. When folded into a special origami pattern scientists were able to generate power simultaneously.

Researchers say they have ideas on ways to boost efficiency of the artificial electric organ. While the technology is preliminary, the team believes it could be a promising self-charging device that could power pacemakers, prosthetics and even augmented reality contact lenses. 

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