Dr. Sven Kerzenmacher of University of Freiburg, Germany is working on developing a glucose fuel cell that could generate electricity to power implantable devices. The idea is intriguing because it takes a different approach than the mechanical generators most other researchers are working on.
Dr Kerzenmacher won this year’s Forum for Applied Microsystems Research Prize for his work.
Some details from University of Freiburg:
The idea behind Sven Kerzenmacher’s research, on the other hand, is the possibility of using of implantable glucose fuel cells on the basis of noble metal catalysts like platinum. Such catalysts are particularly well suited for use in implant systems due to their long-term stability and the fact that they can be sterilized. In the future, systems equipped with these fuel cells could be supplied with power by way of a continuous electrochemical reaction between glucose and oxygen from the tissue fluid.
Kerzenmacher and his team aim to apply a thin coat of the fuel cells they have developed to the surface of the implant. The advantages of this technique over existing technologies stem from the fact that the fuel cells are only half as thick while delivering a 30 percent increase in performance. Moreover, platinum electrodes are not sensitive to unwanted chemical reactions like hydrolysis and oxidation. Kerzenmacher and his research group consisting of biologists, chemists, and engineers are currently developing new materials and techniques to improve the performance of the fuel cells.