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First bio-compatible ion current battery invented

By Tim Sandle     Aug 1, 2017 in Science
Bethesda - Technologists from University of Maryland have created a new kind of battery. The battery is bio-compatible, and it produces a similar type of of ion-based electrical energy as that used by humans and other animals.
With the human body, the electrical signals that allow our brains to communicate with our bodies and which also regulate vital functions like our hearts are the product of flowing ions (such as sodium, potassium and other electrolytes). In a sense, this is bio-electricity and it is also influential with the behaviors of many animals.
For example, it is bioelectricity that enables a shark to map the ocean floor; for migratory birds to travel great distances at the same time each year with great accuracy; and for the electric eel to generate large fields of current outside their bodies. The difference of electricity and bioelectricity is with the method of production and the degree.
With a standard battery, the electrical energy (current) flows in form of moving electrons. This is generated within the battery by moving positive ions from one end (electrode) of a battery to the other (cathode). However, the newly developed battery works in an opposite way. The bio-battery transitions electrons around in the device to deliver energy that is a flow of ions. Furthermore, where a conventional battery has electrons flowing through metal wires, the bio-batter has the ions moving outside of ionic cable. These are made from grass fibers to allow for the potential to interface with living organisms. The grass stores energy in microchannels. In the trial, Kentucky bluegrass was soaked in lithium salt solution.
Commenting on the study, principal scientist Dr. Liangbing Hu said to his university’s website: “My intention is for ionic systems to interface with human systems.” Key to this was getting the current right and ensuring that the way the battery works fits with the mammalian body. So how might such a battery be used in practice?
Potential applications include next generation of devices to micro-manipulate neuronal activities and interactions. This could prevent conditions like Alzheimer's disease and depression. If realized, this type of technology could be of enormous interest to many medical technology companies.
In addition, the technology could help with precision medicine, to treat cancers and other medical diseases. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications and the research paper is titled “Inverted battery design as ion generator for interfacing with Biosystems.”
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