A new research led by the University of Michigan in the US has led to the development of a new electric eel-inspired device that could power body implants and wearable devices such as health monitors, augmented-reality contact lenses and medication dispensers.
The team included researchers from the University of Michigan, the Adolphe Merkle Institute at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg, and the University of California-San Diego in the US.
The flexible, transparent electrical device consists of soft cells, which are made of hydrogel and salt, and form potentially biocompatible artificial electric organ generating more than 100V.
Producing steady electricity at high-voltage and low current, the device is anticipated to eliminate the toxicity, bulk or frequent recharging associated with batteries.
The research team expects that the new technology could help in developing bioelectric systems that would generate electricity from natural processes within the body.
University of Michigan materials science and engineering associate professor Max Shtein said: “The eel polarises and depolarises thousands of cells instantaneously to put out these high voltages.
“It’s a fascinating system to look at from an engineering perspective – its performance metrics, its fundamental building blocks, and how to use them.”
The researchers used a specialised device at the Adolphe Merkle Institute to print multiple tiny droplets of salty gel on a plastic sheet and alternated them with hydrogel droplets of pure water.
To generate power, they connected saline and freshwater droplets, and used the origami Miura fold technique to simultaneously combine thousands of alternating cells in the right order.