Biofuel cell draws electrical power from its snail host

Researchers led by Evgeny Katz at Clarkson University have implanted a biofuel cell in a living snail.

According to a statement, 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.

Similar research by Katz and other scientists is working toward a goal of creating insect cyborgs, an idea that has been funded by the US Department of Defense.

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.

Katz’s research was published online 8 March in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.