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Gizmorama - May 17, 2017

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Here's a great idea...a new medical implant works on energy from the human body. That's genius!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- No batteries necessary, new medical implant derives energy from the human body --*

In the future, pacemakers and other medical implant may not need batteries. They will be powered by the human body.

That's the hope of a team of researchers from UCLA and the University of Connecticut, who recently unveiled a so-called biological supercapacitor capable of turning the body's ions into storable energy.

Currently, the battery in a device like a pacemaker must be eventually replaced, which requires another surgery and the accompanying risks. The supercapacitor charges using ions, charged particles, in bodily fluids like urine or blood serum.

The device can be coupled with an energy harvester, which turns the body's kinetic energy into electricity. The supercapacitor is made of graphene and a layer of modified human proteins, which serves as an electrode through which electricity can enter and exit.

"Combining energy harvesters with supercapacitors can provide endless power for lifelong implantable devices that may never need to be replaced," Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher, said in a news release.

The supercapacitor has a width of just a single micrometer, which makes it efficient and allows the device to move around within the body without causing damage.

"Unlike batteries that use chemical reactions that involve toxic chemicals and electrolytes to store energy, this new class of biosupercapacitors stores energy by utilizing readily available ions, or charged molecules, from the blood serum," said Islam Mosa, a grad student at Connecticut.

Researchers detailed the promise of their supercapacitor in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

*-- New nano fiber can listen to cells, like a tiny stethoscope --*

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created a nano-sized optical fiber capable of listening to and sensing the forces created by cells.

The device -- a sort of stethoscope for individual cells -- measures just a few hundred nanometers across, 100-times thinner than a strand of human hair.

The fiber is 10 times more sensitive than an atomic force microscope. When scientists placed the device in a solution containing a small sample of common gut microbes, the fiber was able to detect forces ten trillion times smaller than a single newton. When exposed to cultures of mice heart cells, the fiber was able to detect sounds as faint as negative 30 decibels.

"This work could open up new doors to track small interactions and changes that couldn't be tracked before," lead researcher Donald Sirbuly, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego, said in a news release.

Sirbuly says the device could be used to study the biomechanics of cells and detect potentially harmful transformations. The fiber could listen for signs of a viral attack or cancerous growth.

The device features a tiny strand of tin dioxide. The fiber is coated in a thin layer of polyethylene glycol, a type of polymer. The coating is dusted with gold nanoparticles.

Scientists send a beam of light down the nano fiber and measure how forces emitted by the studied medium -- whether cell culture and bacterial solutions -- affect the light. The polymer's sensitivity to surrounding forces is key to the device's performance. Researchers can use a thicker, harder coating to measure larger forces, or a thinner, squishier polymer to measure smaller forces.

"We're not just able to pick up these small forces and sounds, we can quantify them using this device," Sirbuly said. "This is a new tool for high resolution nanomechanical probing."

Researchers described the novel nano fiber in the journal Nature Photonics.


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