10 January 2018
The electric eel has inspired an international research team to develop a novel power source and suggest its work could enable self-powered batteries for biological applications such as pacemakers.
The researchers began by reverse-engineering the eel’s electric organ – made of electrocytes. These generate a small voltage through the movement of sodium and potassium ions. Together, these cells can generate up to 600V.
The team, led by University of Fribourg Professor Michael Mayer, designed a power source that generates electricity based on the salinity difference between compartments of fresh and salt water. By arranging hundreds of these compartments in a repeat sequence, it was possible to generate 110V. Each component is made of a hydrogel that can be assembled on clear plastic sheets using a 3D printer.