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The Ultimate Wearable Technology

Sergey Shleev and Magnus Falk are quite literally putting blood, sweat and tears into their work.

The two biomedical scientists at the University College of Malmo in Sweden are developing wearable electronics powered by naturally occurring chemical processes in the blood.

While energy is conventionally stored in batteries, Shleev and Falk are tapping into the body’s natural energy supply. They’re using special biofuel cells that store energy harvested from oxygen and glucose and turn it into electricity.

Here’s how it works…

Using the Body As a “Power Plant”

Without getting too bogged down in the science, Shleev explains that their process uses two electrodes, which are attached to a mixture of water and blood to extract the energy.

As Shleev explains, “On the one electrode, we oxidize glucose and on the other electrode, we reduce oxygen. Then there is an electron flow from one electron to the other.” As that process happens, it generates “an electrical current that we can use for different types of applications.”

That includes wearable tech devices such as pacemakers, or – more futuristically – smart contact lenses for diabetics, which detect glucose levels in a person’s tears and transmit the information to a smartphone.

Take a look…

Cheap, Green and Clean

The beauty of the science here is three-fold…

~A Cheap, Abundant Energy Source: The process uses “biological catalysts that are renewable and can be produced at very low cost,” says Shleev. And that energy is put to uniquely personal use.

~Size: “The biofuel cells are very easy to miniaturize, so we can extract power from very small amounts,” says Falk. And when he says “miniaturize,” we’re talking down to the nanometer level here. Plus, those cells are able to “generate power from low amounts of fluids.”

~Green: Because the body produces its own energy/electricity, and then stores it, the technology is friendly to both the body and environment. No carbon emissions here!

Now, scaling up this technology won’t be easy. Not only do the scientists have to build safe, efficient, reliable biofuel cells, it’s a project that requires a significant amount of funding.

But nothing worth achieving ever happened without some blood, sweat and tears (quite literally in this case). And the fact that we’re talking about turning the human body into its own “power plant,” using a renewable, limitless supply energy is a compelling concept.

Ahead of the tape,

Martin Denholm

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

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