Researchers have developed an innovative battery that draws energy from our blood oxygen and never runs out of power. Patients can benefit from a higher quality of life.

Batteries can be extremely useful, but they pose a risk in some areas. One example is the operation of medical implants. Toxic materials such as those found in lithium-ion batteries are not an option due to the high risk of electric shock.

Researchers around the world are therefore working on new, non-toxic methods for operating medical devices inside the human body. The Tianjin University of Technology recently made a major step forward in this area. Scientists there developed a new type of battery that generates energy from blood oxygen.

It could, for example, make it unnecessary to undergo surgical battery changes in pacemakers, as these currently last five to six years and then have to be replaced through surgery.

Battery draws energy from blood oxygen

The new battery is based on copper foam and an alloy of sodium, gallium and tin for the anode. The cathode is made of porous nano-gold. The electrolyte contains body fluid and blood, whose oxygen serves as the active component. Since the body constantly supplies oxygen, there is no need to change the battery.

To test the battery's safety, researchers first implanted it under the skin of rats. The wounds caused by this healed normally and no side effects occurred. However, the battery did not immediately deliver a constant voltage because the blood vessels around the battery had to regenerate first.

It took about two weeks for the battery to continuously deliver current at a voltage of 1.3 volts. While this is not enough for a pacemaker, the approach shows that the battery basically works. Further optimizations are expected to increase the current output in the future.

It is also conceivable that it could be used against cancer

In addition to pacemakers, doctors could also use the technology to treat cancer. This is because tumor cells are sensitive to the oxygen content in the cells. An oxygen-consuming battery could therefore help to literally deprive tumors of the air they need to breathe.

Research shows that the continuous use of blood oxygen to generate energy in implants is possible. This could fundamentally change current medical approaches and improve the quality of life of patients with various diseases.

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