Introduction to “Biofueling Change”

The group “Biofueling Change” will be researching human “biofuels.” These are different power sources within the human body. Currently, there is lots of research being done on harnessing the power of the human body in order to power biotechnology. Biotechnological innovations such as a pacemaker currently require a lithium-ion battery. Not only are these harmful to the environment when disposed of, but they are foreign sources of power which are unnatural and potentially harmful to the human body. As biomedical engineering grows and becomes more extensive, natural and recyclable forms of power will be needed. Biomedical Engineers researching this hope that one day, technology will be developed that can essentially plug somewhere into the body, generating power and powering the devices of tomorrow.


The three branches of research that I have found are as follows. First, there is the power from human movement. Are bodies are constantly moving, from walking to our beating hearts. Piezoelectric materials such as the crystal in lighters which generates an electric spark are being used throughout the human body. Scientists have successfully generated a small amount of electricity by attaching a very small piece of piezoelectric cloth/material to internal organs. Second, there is the power from human body heat (thermodynamics). Certain materials have been recently developed which can generate electricity when exposed to high temperatures. When heated to the temperature of the human body, scientists have successfully generated a small amount of power. Finally, there is the power flowing through our blood. Artificial cells called Enzymatic Biofuel Cells (EFCs) target the plasma in human blood, extracting the glucose and using it to generate electricity. An EFC has been successfully implanted in a rat, where it generated a small amount of electricity successfully for 11 days.


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