Final Project Overview + More Information

Final Presentation Summary

December 4, 2018

Bioengineering Change

Rena Ju, Alec McKendell, Olivia Tomassetti, Abdi Wakene


Lithium batteries are currently used to power many biotechnologies. However, these batteries are non-renewable, heavy, lack longevity, and are toxic, creating critical problems as a power source in the human body. We wanted to find a way to harness a more renewable and natural energy source. To do so we planned to manipulate natural metabolism of excess fat in the body so that a localized heat source could be created and cause a changing magnetic field to induce a current.

To do this, a pill containing the hormones glucagon and noradrenaline, a magnetic nanodevice, and a high threshold leptin sensor is ingested by a human. This pill, coated in a thin layer of a fat-like hydrophobic molecule, will be directed towards the excess fat in the body. Since white fat cells excrete a very high concentration of the hormone leptin, the pill will find these cells using the built-in leptin sensor. Once at the white fat cells, the pill will release the glucagon which activates the first step in the process of fat metabolism. In order to break down fat in the body, fat must first be broken down into glycerol and fatty acids. Lipolysis is the complex process that breaks down the bonds between glycerol and fatty acids in fat cells. Glucagon is a hormone that activates the lipolytic response in fat cells. We specifically chose to include this hormone in our pill because we wanted to manipulate the natural process of fat metabolism. The pill then releases noradrenaline to stimulate the oxidation of fatty acids. Noradrenaline is a hormone that activates the enzyme cascade that stimulates the oxidation of fatty acids. These processes are exothermic, releasing heat. The heat source in this localized area causes a temporary change in the molecular structure of the magnet, causing a change in the strength of the magnetic field produced by the iron nanodevice. This increase and decrease in magnetic field can then induce a current through a loop with a biotechnological device, effectively powering it.

In the future we hope that our design could sustainably power a pacemaker without having to implant any sort of power source; instead a patient would just have to periodically take a pill that then naturally produced the heat and induced a current. Our project could also potentially be scaled up to allow for external devices, like a phone, to be wirelessly powered by breaking down fat within the body!

Also, our design could potentially revolutionize weight loss. White fat cells (adipocytes) can only be shrunk but not lost, and harnessing energy from the breakdown of fatty acids will help shrink these fat cells. With our idea

electricity would be able to be wirelessly induced in biotechnology rather than having a wire connecting the two. Using the changing magnetic field as a way to power biotechnology will introduce an alternative to lithium batteries. Also, harnessing energy in this way requires no invasive surgeries or permanent implanted device (other than the biotechnology this process powers).

There are still limitations to our current design. No research has been done to numerically show how much the magnetic field is altered when introduced to the localized heat. Also, the fat-like coating around the magnet would likely limit the amount of heat transfer to the magnet since the substance is not a conductor of heat. This would in turn limit the change in the magnetic field. Faraday’s Law, which describes the process of generating a voltage in a loop of wire from a changing magnetic field is not a very efficient process. A significant amount of energy may be lost due to several factors: the strength of the magnet, how much the magnetic field changes when introduced to heat, the speed at which the magnetic field changes, and the distance between the magnet and the loop within the biotechnology. Also, our design requires a patient to periodically take pills in order to sustain the power to their biotechnology. This could cause problems if a patient was to forget to take the pill, so an alternative source of power might be needed as a precaution.

To improve our design in the future we want to improve the type of magnet we use and the way that the field is altered. More specifically, better materials could be used to enhance efficiency of heat transfer to the magnet. Moreover, there are feasible ways to connect magnets so that changing heat can expand them and cause a rotation between them, effectively turning off the magnet by changing the flow of the magnetic field lines. This would cause a more drastic change in the magnetic field, more efficiently generating electricity. We also want to improve the methods of how the pill finds the excess fat in the body and want to consider an alternative to having a patient continuously take pills.


Key References

Glucagon Hormone and Stimulation of Lipolysis

Duncan, R. E., Ahmadian, M., Jaworski, K., Sarkadi-Nagy, E., & Sul, H. S. (2007). Regulation of lipolysis in adipocytes. Annual review of nutrition, 27, 79-101.

Perea, A., Clemente, F., Martinell, J., Villanueva-Peñacarrillo, M., & Valverde, I. (1995). Physiological Effect of Glucagon in Human Isolated Adipocytes. Hormone and Metabolic Research,27(08), 372-375.


Barr, V. A. (1997). Insulin Stimulates Both Leptin Secretion and Production by Rat White Adipose Tissue. Endocrinology,138(10), 4463-4472.

Magnetic Fields and Properties

(2014, June 10). Magnet Experiments: What Happens When a Magnet is Heated. Retrieved from

(n.d.). Retrieved from



Serra, D., Mera, P., Malandrino, M. I., Mir, J. F., & Herrero, L. (2013). Mitochondrial Fatty Acid Oxidation in Obesity. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 19(3), 269-284.


Other Sources

Cosnier, S., Goff, A. L., & Holzinger, M. (2014). Towards glucose biofuel cells implanted in human body for powering artificial organs: Review. Electrochemistry Communications,38, 19-23.

Frayn, Keith. N., & Langin, Dominique. (2004). Triacylglycerol metabolism in adipose tissue. Advances in Molecular and Cell Biology, Volume 33, pp. 331-356.

Gebel, E. (2011, March). How your Body Uses Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Retrieved from

Ho, J. (2014, December 12). Glucose Fuel Cells. Retrieved from

Leptin | Hormone Health Network. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Osterlund, T. (n.d.). Glucagon. Retrieved from

Pond, C. (1998). The Fats of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Staff, S. (2009, January 29). Harvesting Energy From Humans. Retrieved from

Wylie, R. (2015, July 19). Your body, the battery: Powering gadgets from human “biofuel”.

2016, January 02. The Science Behind Fat Metabolism – KetoSchool. Retrieved from



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