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Research conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Korea University has lead to the creation of a new biofuel cell powered by glucose that utilizes electrodes from cotton that could power medical devices. This fuel cell has double the amount of power than a normal biofuel cell and could be paired with batteries to explore hybrid power sources.

The creation of the cell is sourced from gold nanoparticles that were assembled on cotton to create highly conductive electrodes. Researchers used this method to improve the efficiency of the fuel cell while also allowing the enzymes that oxidize glucose with an electrode. By stacking the gold nanoparticles layer-by-layer, they formed a gold electrode that would provide the electrocatalytic cathode and the conductive substrate for the anode.

Assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering stated, “ We could use this device as a continuous power source for converting chemical energy from glucose in the body to electrical energy”.

The porosity created an increase in the number of gold layers rather than using nylon fiber. Cotton has a large number of pores that can support activity in electrochemical devices. Cotton also improve the biocompatibility of electrochemical devices. Another benefit to the cotton-based biofuel cell is that it has improved long term stability, even though most implantable biofuel cells typically degrade over time.

This is great news for medical devices like pacemakers that have batteries that are designed to last for several years but often have to be maintained or replaced by surgery. The biofuel cell can also be used for devices with temporary use such as time-release drugs. The research will continue and will help develop the biofuel cell further by testing it in an energy storage device and hope to develop it into a functional implantable power source.

The medical device industry could greatly shift in terms of how the devices are powered and the longevity of their power due to advances in biofuel cells, just like this cotton based one being researched.
This research was published in the journal Nature Communications and was supported by a National Research Foundation grant funded by the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning and the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea.