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Biotech Science

Harvesting Energy from the Human Body 160

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-nothing-compared-to-what-i-harvest-from-mine dept.
Late-Eight writes "Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on a new type of nanogenerator that could draw necessary energy from flowing blood in the human body. The hope is to incorporate the new nanogenerator into biosensors, environmental monitoring devices and even personal electronics that will require no fuel source, internal or external. Once completed, this new cellular engine could find various applications, even beyond medicine."
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Harvesting Energy from the Human Body

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  • by Eddi3 (1046882) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @09:25AM (#19945721) Homepage Journal
    In the end, this isn't just harvesting unused energy; There's no such thing. It has to come from somewhere. In this case, doesn't it come from the energy the heart is exerting to pump blood? Is it possible that this could have some long term side effects, due to slightly more stress on the heart?
  • Great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jsse (254124) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @09:27AM (#19945737) Homepage Journal
    That's one step toward the Matrix, thanks a bunch!

    Tell me where you're so that I could spot you and eliminate you in order to divert myself away from the inevitable future.
  • HemoElectric Dams (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2007 @09:34AM (#19945771)
    Finally a way to power animated tattoos!
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @09:57AM (#19945927)
    As much as I love new medical R&D, I think this on is probably a non-starter.

    First, we'll ignore the risk of infection on the assumption that we're implanting a device anyway and its just a matter of what power source we pick for the implant. The most serious general problem would be blood clots that form on surfaces of the device. These pose a sever risk if they break-off, migrate downstream and cause heart attacks, strokes, or blockages in the lungs or extremities. Even drug-eluting stents (which are coated with anti-clotting drugs) have now been found to cause clotting after the drugs dissipate from the coating.

    Then there are the mechanical/hydraulic problems associated with impaired blood flow (the upstream blood pressure will need to be higher that the downstream pressue -- that pressure differential times the flow rate defines the amount of power extracted). If implanted in an artery this device will increase the back pressure on the heart (leading to an enlarged, inefficient heart) and impair circulation on downstream side (increasing problems with infections and function). If implanted in an vein this device will impair circulation on upstream side and probably lead to fluid build-up on the upstream side.

    Cool idea, but I doubt it's compatible with the human body.
  • by E++99 (880734) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @10:41AM (#19946187) Homepage

    In the end, this isn't just harvesting unused energy; There's no such thing. It has to come from somewhere. In this case, doesn't it come from the energy the heart is exerting to pump blood? Is it possible that this could have some long term side effects, due to slightly more stress on the heart?

    Since it's powered by the vibrations from the pulse, the energy used would presumably otherwise by converted to heat by the mechanical dampening of the pulse by the vein walls. Since this is not a way that the body purposely generates heat, I'd argue that it qualifies as "unused energy." Worst case, it would require a minuscule amount of additional heat production from available fat or sugar stores. It doesn't seem like it would have any direct effect on the heart, as it shouldn't effect the actual flow of blood.
  • Heart implants (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Edgester (105351) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @11:57AM (#19946701) Homepage Journal
    To bad this won't power heart implants or artificial hearts.
  • by constantnormal (512494) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @12:25PM (#19946927)
    yeah ... 12 microwatt-hrs per day is about 36 kWh per month per billion people. Compare that to your own monthly electric bill.

    Either the Matrix has much, MUCH more efficient technologies, or here is yet another fine bit of fiction that has slid down the fantasy side of the fork in the road between science fiction and fantasy.

    "Coppertop", indeed. :-(
  • by Valdez (125966) on Monday July 23, 2007 @09:41AM (#19955937)
    Harnessing mechanical energy is fine, but the real breakthrough is going to happen when a "filter" system can be placed inline with major arteries... which actually pulls chemicals out of the blood and uses them to power a fuel cell/charge a battery/whatever. Imagine burning 1000 calories an hour just by cranking the knob up. Weight loss with the added benefit of producing power usfeul for mobile devices.

    You may not need the system to be wired up in series... which could cause some problems if it fails or clogs. It would probably be best to replace sections of artery with an artificial tube, which has a specifically designed membrane wall allowing the glucose and whatever else you need to permeate through to the fuel cell/reactor side.

    The dream of a "built in" personal computer connected directly to your brain is going to require such a power source...

    Plus, imagine personal mobile computing then... forget USB charging, plug your Ipod into your spleen!

We will have solar energy as soon as the utility companies solve one technical problem -- how to run a sunbeam through a meter.

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