Sunday, October 12, 2008

Super Cells to Power Cyborgs

Cyborgs are moving out of science-fiction and into the real world. With an increasing number of first world citizens suddenly turning up missing limbs, due to some mysterious and definitely non-oil-related reason, and advances in man-machine interface technology it's time to think about how we're going to power artificial additions to the body. The average human doesn't react well to an electrical outlet, and most of the chemicals you find inside batteries aren't ones you'd want to find inside yourself.

Researchers at Yale University have come up with blueprints for a bio-battery, organic cells which can work together to produce an electrical voltage. These cells are optimised versions of electric eel electrocytes, the results of millions of years of evolution plus a few more of scientists going "We can do better than that!" The upgraded electro-cells will produce 30% higher voltages than the original organics, and 30% more efficiently.

The improvements were made possible by mathematically modeling the ion pumps and channels which set up the voltages in the natural cells. With the mechanisms freed from the gooey bits of the actual cell, the model could be varied to find the most efficient values, which were then mapped back into a design for cells which will do a much better job.

Or at least they will if we can build them. There's a long way between the drawing board and the cyber-implant in the world of biotechnology, at least for those of us outside of Marvel, and several "How do we actually build this?" questions have to be answered. The key will be the connection of the electro-cells to the ATP reserves in the body, allowing you to convert calories into charge to run your Apple iMplant audio player.

Posted by Luke McKinney

Original here

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