Call it saliva, spit, spittle or anything else you want. But the lubricant in our mouths could have a purpose beyond easing food into our throats. Scientists at SUNY Binghamton University in upstate New York have found another use for it: Making electricity. This is not to say that smartphones will be running off saliva-powered cells anytime soon. We are talking about microscopic fuel cells here.
Binghamton Engineering Behind Saliva-Powered Cells
Seokheun Choii of the Bioelectronics & Microsystems Laboratory has been chasing his dream of creating small power sources for 5 years. His target is healthcare device users in remote, rural areas, that may not have constant, reliable sources of electricity. “On-demand micro-power generation is required especially for point-of-care diagnostic applications in developing countries,” he explains.
“Typically, those applications require only several tens of microwatt-level power for several minutes. But commercial batteries or other energy harvesting technologies are too expensive. Also, they pose environmental pollution issues.” Seokheun Choii has been focusing on microbial fuel cells driving electrical currents through bacteria.
There’s Great Potential for Saliva-Powered Cells
Seokheun Choii’s latest saliva-powered cells are made of freeze-dried paper, with potential to send electricity beyond their boundaries. Wetting them with saliva sees tiny amounts of electricity emerging within a few minutes. Eureka Alert thinks these could power the next generation of tailor-made point-of-care testing devices.
“So while your spit won’t power your phone battery any time soon,” Seokheun Choii adds. “Once it can power one LED light, it will stand to reason that we can make it power several more.” We are hoping great things for his saliva-powered cells. However, it seems we will have to wait awhile, before we could charge our laptops with a lick.
Preview Image: Rural Clinic in Malaysia
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