If we’re ever going to reach the cyberpunk future foretold in science fiction, we’re going to need sensors implanted in our bodies. Something similar is already possible in the form of small transdermal RFID chips, but those are only active when an external power source is nearby. The issue with always-on sensors is that they require constant power, and it’s not a good idea to implant batteries under your skin. A new sensor from Washington State University researchers solves that problem by harvesting energy from the sugar in your body.
The team’s goal was to create a biomedical sensor that could be placed under a patient’s skin to gather data over a long period of time. Using something like a lithium-ion battery is dangerous because it will be toxic to the patient’s body if it were to rupture. And, despite the fact that their sensor design only requires a few microwatts of power, that battery would still need to be recharged eventually. A much better solution is to gather power from the patient’s body itself, which is exactly what their device does.
In addition to the ultra low-power sensor, the device incorporates a biofuel cell that converts body glucose into power. The device is efficient enough to run indefinitely on just the glucose produced by the human body, and therefore avoids the issues with batteries. The sensor could be any low-power type, which would allow for monitoring of a variety of different medical conditions. The next step is to get the device approved for trials, but that’s a big step for any medical device, particularly implantable ones.