Battery-like devices mimic how a charge builds up in the animal’s cells
Thomas Schroeder and Anirvan Guha
New power sources bear a shocking resemblance to the electricity-making organs inside electric eels.
These artificial electric eel organs are made up of water-based polymer mixes called hydrogels. Such soft, flexible battery-like devices, described online December 13 in Nature, could power soft robots or next-gen wearable and implantable tech.
“It’s a very smart approach” to building potentially biocompatible, environmentally friendly energy sources and “has a bright future for commercialization,” says Jian Xu, an engineer at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge not involved in the work.
This new type of power source is modeled after rows of cells called electrocytes in the electric organ that runs along an electric eel’s body. When an eel zaps its prey, positively charged potassium and sodium atoms inside and between these cells flow toward the eel