Batteries powered by guinea pigs

You probably thought of hamster wheels hooked up to generators, right? Or maybe this commercial? The real story is actually far more bizarre.

Researchers have discovered how to power electronic devices using guinea pig ears. Mammalian inner ears have something called the endocochlear potential within the cochlea. By using two differently-charged body fluids, it maintains a constant electrochemical potential, or voltage. It’s also the largest part of the body that maintains such a potential all the time.

Looking to harvest this energy, researchers at the  MIT and Harvard Medical School hooked up electrodes to a sleeping guinea pig’s cochlea, which is also the part of the ear responsible for hearing. The electrodes were able to collect about a nanowatt of electricity, powering a wireless radio transmitter.

This ability could add a new method to fuel tech devices. As electronics evolve to need less and less energy, smaller batteries charged by mammal ears could be an important resource – though still pretty strange and potentially another thorn in PETA’s paw.

Where this technology could really come in useful is in the medical field. Patients’ own bodies could power drug delivery systems, sensors, or other implanted medical devices. And PETA could hardly argue about you harvesting your own energy.

Photo: kitkatherine/Flickr


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