Sugar-powered Biofuel Cell

Technology Review - Published By MIT

Power from Glucose

An implanted biofuel cell may someday power medical devices.

Scientists have implanted the first functional glucose biofuel cell in a living animal. Unlike batteries that supply power to implants, a power-generating device may not have to be surgically removed and replaced, because glucose is a potentially limitless source of energy.


"It's quite an interesting paper that demonstrates for the first time that one can generate electrical power from body fluids," says Itamar Willner, a biomolecular chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Glucose biofuel cell could revolutionize medical technology

The secret behind the technology? Electrodes made out of compressed graphite containing enzymes that force the oxidation of glucose to generate energy. Notably, these electrodes are protected by a membrane that keeps the enzymes from flowing out, while allowing oxygen and glucose molecules to flow in. That’s the difference between this newest cell and prior, failed iterations.

Glucose biofuel cells may soon power implants

Implants containing both GOX and catalase, immobilized on barium alginate beads, in dialysis tubing wrapped in an exPTFE coating. (A) Before implantation. (B) After 3 months of implantation. A neo-vascular network can be seen, no sign of inflammation is present, proving the good tolerance of the rat for the implant. Image credit: PLoS ONE, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010476

Cinquin said he was optimistic the efficiency could be improved, and achieving electrical outputs in the tens of milliwatts is not unrealistic in larger animals. He said he could see no reason why the devices could not work in people, and hoped to see them developed for use in humans within five to 10 years.

The biofuel cell could find application in devices such as insulin pumps, artificial urinary sphincters, biosensors, bone growth simulators and drug delivery devices as well as pacemakers. The research team want to continue their research by testing biofuel cells in larger animals and for longer periods.

Technology Review: Power from Glucose
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Glucose biofuel cells may soon power implants

Philippe Cinquin's HOME PAGE
Université Joseph Fourier | Accueil
Sugar Within Human Bodies Could Power Future Artificial Organs: Scientific American
Sugar-powered biofuel cell to power artificial organs and medical implants
PLoS ONE: A Glucose BioFuel Cell Implanted in Rats
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