While biofuel stories often fill me with gimlet-eyed suspicion, I’ve now and then said to myself: if only we could mount lasers on insects and then somehow power those lasers with electricity generated from their own blood, THAT would be a biofuel application I can get behind.
Well, consider me behind it because now it almost exists. They haven’t gotten to the lasers yet (and probably won’t, because the laser idea is my pipe dream), but researchers at Case Western Reserve have developed a tiny bug-implantable biofuel cell that uses enzymes to convert the chemical energy in insect blood-sugars into electricity. The electricity can be used to power electronics, like sensors, to turn bugs into spies or first-responders, or to hold all of humanity hostage for a ransom of ONE MEEELLION DOLLARS.
For those who’d like to know something about how it’s done rather than just bask in the glorious dystopian implications, I’ll dirty my fingers with a three-sentence summary:
The system uses two enzymes: The first breaks a sugar, trehalose, into two simpler sugars. The second oxidizes them, which releases electrons. Max power density was close to 100 microwatts per square centimeter at 0.2 volts and max current density was ~450 microamps per square centimeter, if that means anything to you.
This is good news for me because it annoys me when a bug buzzes around my head and it’s got a dirty combustion engine on it.
Now, when our technology turns against us and a weaponized grub army destroys us all, at least their emissions will be low.
This is still lab bench technology, so who knows what will ultimately become of it. I hope that the researchers can adapt their reaction so that I can run my laptop off my fat.
P.S. for those baffled by what the bug in the pic is saying, I commend you for not having spent the last decade mindlessly surfing the web, and also read this.
Image via nickwheeleroz
Nick Bentley is a Climate Change activist, Neurobiologist, and Tom Jones Appreciator. His ignorance is encyclopedic.