Microbial Fuel Cells May Power Internal Medical Devices

September 03, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

A microbial fuel cell is under development at the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Mechanical Engineering that might revolutionize drug-delivery systems. The microbial fuel cell could conceivably power implanted medical devices and aid individuals who require regular doses of drugs. The tiny, internal, drug-delivery system could power the release of essential medicine from within the body.

UC Berkeley Mechanical Engineering professor Liwei Lin and his graduate students have designed a microbial fuel cell that is just 0.07cm² in area. The cell generates as much as 300µV for two hours. The system utilizes glucose, a sugar present in the blood stream, as fuel to drive the tiny "body battery." The microbial system uses saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as baker's yeast, to ferment glucose and produce protons and electrons from the hydrogen contained within. The byproducts of this process are carbon dioxide and water, substances that the body can naturally filter out.