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03-15-2012

Clarkson University Scientists Implant Biofuel Cell in Living Snail

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/snail.jpg .]

Researchers led by Evgeny Katz, the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science at Clarkson University, have implanted a biofuel cell in a living snail.

Researchers led by Evgeny Katz, the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science at Clarkson University, have implanted a biofuel cell in a living snail. This is the first incidence of an implanted biofuel cell continuously operating in a snail and producing electrical power over a long period of time using the snail’s physiologically produced glucose as a fuel.This is the first incidence of an implanted biofuel cell continuously operating in a snail and producing electrical power over a long period of time using the snail’s physiologically produced glucose as a fuel.

The electrified snail, being a biotechnological living device, was able to regenerate glucose consumed by biocatalytic electrodes, upon appropriate feeding and relaxing, and then produce a new portion of electrical energy.

The snail with the implanted biofuel cell will be able to operate in a natural environment, producing sustainable electrical micropower for activating various bioelectronic devices.

Implantable biofuel cells have been suggested as sustainable micropower sources operating in living organisms, but such bioelectronic systems are still exotic and very challenging to design.

Research like this by Katz and other scientists is working toward a goal of creating insect cyborgs, an idea that has been funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Very few examples of abiotic and enzyme-based biofuel cells operating in living animals have been reported. Implantation of biocatalytic electrodes and extraction of electrical power from small living creatures is even more difficult and has not been achieved to date.

Performing the research with Katz were Clarkson Research Professors Lenka Halámková, Jan Halámek and Vera Bocharova; Clarkson graduate student Alon Szczupak; and Professor Lital Alfonta of the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel.

You can read more about this research in Nature at http://www.nature.com/news/cyborg-snails-power-up-1.10210 or in Scientific American at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=cyborg-snails-power-up .

Katz’s research was published online March 8 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja211714w .

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Researchers led by Evgeny Katz, the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science at Clarkson University, have implanted a biofuel cell in a living snail. This is the first incidence of an implanted biofuel cell continuously operating in a snail and producing electrical power over a long period of time using the snail’s physiologically produced glucose as a fuel.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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