A pair of Purdue University researchers, perhaps impressed by the burps that come off wort as it turns to beer, have created a tiny pump powered by fermentation. The technology may one day be used to power transdermal drug patches that deliver drugs from an internal reservoir in a controlled manner.
The pump contains sugar and yeast, which, when combined with a bit of water and slightly heated by the patient’s own body, generate carbon dioxide. The accumulation of CO2 creates pressure within, providing energy for squeezing a drug sack positioned on top of the fermentation chamber.
The “the microorganism-powered thermopneumatic pump” is made out of layers of a rubberlike polymer, called polydimethylsiloxane, which is used commercially for diaphragms in pumps. The prototype is 1.5 centimeters long.
Current “transdermal” patches are limited to delivering drugs that, like nicotine, are made of small hydrophobic molecules that can be absorbed through the skin, Ziaie [Babak Ziaie, Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering] said.
“Many drugs, including those for treating cancer and autoimmune disorders cannot be delivered with patches because they are large molecules that won’t go through the skin,” he said. “Although transdermal drug delivery via microneedle arrays has long been identified as a viable and promising method for delivering large hydrophilic molecules across the skin, a suitable pump has been hard to develop.”
We’re fantasizing about drug patches that, once exhausted of the meds inside, can be peeled open to reveal a sip of freshly made beer. Surely compliance with medication regimens will skyrocket.
Abstract in Lab on a Chip: A fermentation-powered thermopneumatic pump for biomedical applications