Cardiac pacemakers and other implantable medical devices can improve, prolong and even save human life. But the batteries that power them remain relatively bulky and require periodic replacement. In addition, should the toxic materials or electrolytes they contain ever leak, the wearer’s health could be compromised. Now, researchers at UCLA and the University of Connecticut have developed a “biological supercapacitor” that stores electrical energy within the body.
Only a single micron thick, it can be linked to others to increase storage capacity. The non-toxic device uses bodily fluids as the electrolyte. The constituent nanocomposite graphene sheets interlayered with a human protein acts as the electrode. This material demonstrated no toxicity to mouse embryo fibroblasts at a concentration 160 times higher than that of the bioelectrochemical capacitor.
The scientists envision combining this device with a system that uses body heat or movement to gather energy, enabling it to power next-gen long-lasting, miniaturized implantables.