The Latest Renewable Energy Source: Cockroaches

[Photo credit: Bill & Mark Bell]

Biofuel: a hot topic for doctors seeking to implant pacemakers and other life-saving devices inside the body without the need for batteries that would need to be changed every couple of years, or months, or even week. Now researchers at Case Western Reserve University have possibly found the answer in one of our least favourite creepy crawlies: the cockroach.

Using enzymes in series at the anode, the researchers have developed a chemical energy-converting fuel cell that creates a maximum power density output of nearly 100 microwatts per square centimetre at 0.2 volts.

The enzyme trehalase is the first in the line, breaking down the sugar trehalose, which is in constant production in a cockroach. The trehalose is broken down into simpler sugars (called monosaccharides), and a second enzyme oxidizes those, releasing electrons. The cathode draws the electrons, at which point oxygen is reduced to water by these electrons.

Difficulties with the first enzyme caused a year long delay in the research, but after the study’s five long years, pushing through the problems has been worth it.

Inserting electrodes into the blood sinus of a female cockroach left the insect pretty much unharmed, ready to scuttle off into the dark corners of your house to wait till you fall asleep. With no long-term damage, it seems there’s no ethical debate about implanting the little critters with electronics – I wonder if the world would feel the same if it was happening to cats and dogs?

Is this technology leading us down the road of cyborg creatures? Perhaps one day we’ll be able to have a dog that can power our hot water and literally comes bounding back when we hit “return” on the remote. Or maybe we’ll be able to install quantum computers into our brains and upload and download information directly? Imagine lecturers Bluetoothing information straight into our head…

I might be getting a little bit ahead of myself there. These are, after all, just some cockroaches creating a bit of a spark…right?

In any case, we at least now know that even after a nuclear apocalypse, we’ll still have one power source scuttling about the Earth.

[Via Med Gadget]


2 Responses to The Latest Renewable Energy Source: Cockroaches

  1. While I don't have a huge amount of empathy towards cockroaches, I think there are enough other alternative energy sources in the works that we probably don't have to enslave yet another species.

  2. It would be the perfect symbiosis …. they eat our trash , and we get clean energy out of them. Sounds good forme, the more roaches we get .. more energy to spend.

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