The snail, one of nature’s slowpokes, carries its house on its back — but it might also hold the power to fuel a revolution in nanotechnology.
A team of scientists at Clarkson University has developed technology to turn an ordinary snail into a living, moving battery.
The research was published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society with Evgeny Katz, Milton Kerker chaired professor of colloid science at Clarkson, as the lead author.
The technology involves tiny implants, called biofuel cells, charged by chemical reactions in the snail’s blood. Though a snail generates only a tiny amount of electrical charge, the electricity is accumulated in a device called a condenser, which can then power another small device if needed.
The idea to use small creatures as portable power sources has been around for a while, Mr. Katz said.
“The idea to work on implantable biocatalytic electrodes for extracting electrical power in vivo is not new,” he said. “It was researched already for almost 20 years. However, many papers claimed ‘implantable’ electrodes ... while very few results were achieved.”
The Clarkson team is excited because its implants have remained functional over the course of several months, an important first.
“Snails can normally live about two to three years in natural conditions,” Mr. Katz said. “In our lab they lived with implanted electrodes six to 12 months, probably because we didn’t provide in the lab perfect conditions similar to natural.”