Fuel Cell-Packing Cockroaches Used to Generate Electricity
February 3, 2014 12:00 PM
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A 3D-printed prototype of the cell generated 50.2 microwatts of power from a single cockroach
A bug typically despised by many has actually proved to be useful in a new study, where the insects were used to create a wireless sensor network.
, Japanese researchers from Osaka University and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have developed tiny fuel cells that attach to the cockroaches and generate electricity.
The fuel cell -- which measures approximately 20 x 15mm and is comprised of electrodes, a tank of body fluid, and a needle that is inserted into the bug -- is placed on the cockroach. The bug's body fluid is a source of a type of sugar called trehalose, which helps generate the electricity.
The bug's body fluid makes its way into the tank (which has a dialysis membrane inside) via diffusion. From there, the trehalose is broken down into glucose by enzymes trehalase and mutarotase, and an oxidation-reduction reaction is used to oxidize the glucose on the positive electrode side and generate oxygen on the negative electrode side.
A 3D-printed prototype of the cell generated 50.2 microwatts of power from a single cockroach, and the study foresees a wireless sensor network of high-tech bugs.
The Japanese universities aren't the first to use cockroaches to generate electricity. In 2012, chemistry professor Daniel Scherson from Case Western Reserve University used enzymes capable of converting a cockroach's food consumption into electrons, which can then be sent through a fuel cell to generate electricity.
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