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Electric eels might be the key to powering implantable devices

This could lead to a pacemaker that never runs out.
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ullstein bild via Getty Images

Science has been inspired by eels for aquatic exploration before, sure, and now researchers are eyeing electric eels for motivation. The idea is to create a flexible self-powering device that could keep the juice flowing through a pacemaker or an internal medicine-delivery tool, without the need for a traditional battery pack.

To do this, scientists from the Adolphe Merkele Institute, University of Fribourg and University of Michigan printed thousands of droplets of hydrogel on a sheet, alternating between drops of a saline solution and water. A second sheet with selective-charge hydrogel drops is layered on top of the first, creating electricity as the ions move in opposite directions.

To produce a jolt of energy on demand, the team applied pressure to sheets folded in a particular way that would make the droplets stack and generate current. The team knows it has a ways to go before fully mimicking what an eel can do, but the researchers have the basics down.

More than just power implantables for the aged, the team said that this tech could be used for things like AR contact lenses. There's also the chance that in the future we could generate bioelectricity from other bodily functions.

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