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CAMP Annual Report: Page 9

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Research Activities Carried out By Professor Evgeny Katz and His Group: From “Cyborg” Lobsters to a Pacemaker Powered by Implantable Biofuel Cells

Biofuel cells converting chemical energy into electricity upon biocatalyzed chemical reactions have recently emerged as promising alternative sources of sustainable electrical energy. Implantable biofuel cells, suggested as micro-power sources operating in living organisms, are still exotic and very challenging to design within bioelectronic systems. Very few examples of enzyme-based biofuel cells operating in animals (in vivo) have been reported. Therefore, the work being carried out by Professor Katz and his group is another important step forward in this research. The team includes Clarkson University members Professor Evgeny Katz, Professor William D. Jemison, Dr. Jan Halámek, Dr. Lenka Halámková, and graduate students Kevin MacVittie as well as Mark Southcott, working in collaboration with MD. Robert Lobel (at the University of Vermont College of Medicine).


Figure 2: The biofuel cell composed of two pairs of the biocatalytic cathodes-anodes implanted in two lobsters wired in series and used for powering an electronic watch. (A) The wiring scheme. (B) The photo of the setup. (C) The operating watch – close view.

Enzyme-modified electrodes were implanted in living lobsters. This resulted in the biocatalytic oxidation of glucose and the reduction of oxygen in the bio-fluid inside the lobster’s body. Thus electrical power was produced from the biological source. Integration of the “electrified” lobsters with the biofuel cells (connected in series) allowed for the activation of a digital watch as a model electronic device. See Figure 2. Various sensing, information processing and wireless transmission devices for future military, homeland security and environmental monitoring applications are feasible based on the present example-device with the power produced by a “cyborg” creature. Another fluidic device with implanted bioelectrodes assembled in series and mimicking the human blood circulatory system was used to activate a pacemaker. See Figure 3. Future implantable medical devices, such as cardiac defibrillators/pacemakers, deep brain neurostimulators, spinal cord stimulators, gastric stimulators, foot drop implants, cochlear implants, insulin pumps, etc. powered by implanted biofuel cells extracting electrical energy directly from a human body are possible, resulting in bionic human hybrids. The present study is a step on the long path to the design of bioelectronic self-powered “cyborgs” which can autonomously operate using power from biological sources.


Figure 3: The biofuel cell battery composed of five pairs of the biocatalytic cathodes-anodes operating in a fluidic setup with a serum solution and used for powering a pacemaker. (A) Open pacemaker – a close view showing the microscheme and wiring leads for the battery. Note the empty space (left part of the device) from which the original battery was removed. (B) The experimental setup showing the multi-channel peristaltic pump, five individual fluidic tubings providing serum solution to five biofuel cells connected in series electrically and used for powering the pacemaker. (C) The electrical signals generated by the pacemaker recorded by an oscilloscope. (D) The individual pulse produced by the pacemaker powered by the biofuel cell.

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Professor Maria Gracheva Wins a REU Award (Supplement)



Professor Maria Gracheva

Professor Maria Gracheva (of Clarkson University’s Department of Physics) won a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Award.  It is a supplement for her NSF award entitled “EAGER: Layered Semiconductor Membranes for Tunable Separation and Filtering of Ions and Biomolecules.”  

 The primary goal of this focused program is to show the feasibility of using layered membranes made of doped semiconductor materials for the separation and filtering of ions. This will be achieved through the use of complex computational models which have been previously used by Gracheva to describe the electrostatic behavior of nanoporous semiconductor membranes, including layered membranes under bias, as tunable electronic devices for ion and biomolecular manipulations.

 The undergraduate student working with Professor Gracheva on this project is Christopher R. McKinney, who has a double major in Physics and Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering with a minor in Mathematics.  Christopher is an Honors Program student who will be working with Gracheva on his undergraduate Honors Thesis.