Nasa is experimenting with a substance found in the human ear that could be used to power space exploration.
The trials are based on the outer hair cells in the human ear, which use the natural electrical force all humans generate to move hairs and amplify sound. This is made possible by a protein called prestin that coats the hairs.
A research group at bioelectic technology firm IntAct Labs has found a way to reverse the protein so that movement can be used to generate electrical power.
Providing enough electricity to run a ship and its spacesuit systems is a major impediment to space travel and exploration.
Although each prestin protein can only produce tiny amounts of electricity, researchers hope to meld large numbers and build "power skins" so that astronauts could generate their own electrical power.
It is eventually hoped that buildings on Mars could be covered by the substance and use the winds of the planet to generate power.
"First we want to prove that the mechanism works," Matthew Silver of IntAct Labs told New Scientist. "But the ultimate goal is to design architectures that harness the ability of biological mechanisms to self-assemble."
The use of a biological substance may also make it possible for such skins to regenerate if they get torn or damaged.
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