plugging snails into the matrix

Plugging snails into the Matrix © ACS

In the 1999 film The Matrix, a race of sentient machines gets its power by harvesting bioelectricity from farms of plugged in human beings.

While that’s (as far as I know) not yet been realised, a group at Ben-Gurion University in Israel has managed to plug into a snail as a power source.

The team implanted a biofuel cell into a living land snail. The cell is made from carbon nanotube ‘paper’ modified with enzymes that process sugar. As the snail eats, some of the glucose in its food ends up in the fuel cell and generates electricity.

There’s no danger of the machines overthrowing their human masters just yet, though – the maximum power from the snail cell was 7.45µW, so it would take quite a lot of snails to power even a small robot. That said, the aim of these devices is not really to create a new source of renewable power by enslaving armies of snails – more to power tiny implanted medical devices that deliver drugs or monitor diseases.

I just hope they don’t join forces with the cockroaches with fuel cell-powered implants to control their movements.

Phillip Broadwith

Ref: L Halámková et al, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, DOI: 10.1021/ja211714w

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