Scientists have developed an innovative 110 volt battery comprised of water-filled gel in a development inspired by electric eels.
The academics, from the University of Fribourg, University of Michigan and UC San Diego, wanted to develop a soft power source by combining ion gradients with so-called hydrogels.
They believe that this research could pave the way for soft power sources that take design cues from the chemical energy of biological systems.
According to the scientists, these findings can be used to generate power for implantable technologies - with the scientists drawing their idea from the way in which electric eels are capable of generating an electric charge.
You may be able to create a battery which continuously recharges itself, because these ionic gradients are constantly being re-established within the body
Anirvan Guha, graduate student at the the University of Fribourg, was one of the researchers on the project. He presented the research at the 62nd Biophysical Society Annual Meeting this week.
He explained how the researchers developed an electric eel that generates hundreds of volts by combining hydrogel packs, each with "varying strengths of salt water".
Ions, which are crucial battery technology, often accumulate in number when they are on both sides of a cell membrane. The researchers tapped into this energy to power the electric eel.
The researchers explained that when "more hydrogels were stacked on top of each other, the greater the voltage increase". In total, they were able to reach 100 volts.
However, the research as it currently stands may not have a practical application: the researchers admitted that they had to stack thousands of individual hydrogel packs in order to generate the same electrical charge as one electric eel.
And it wasn't an easy task, either, with the researchers requiring the help of a specialist printer.
Guha added that it "deposits little droplets of gel ... with the precision and spatial resolution to print an array of almost 2,500 gels on a sheet the size of a normal piece of printer paper".
The project is still ongoing, and the team now wants to increase the electrical current of the hydrogel, enabling a higher voltage.
"Right now, we're in the range of tens to hundreds of micro-amperes [the basic unit for measuring an electrical current], which is too low to power most electronic devices," admitted Guha.
Over the coming months, the research team wants to generate soft forms of power which "utilise the [ion] gradients that already exist within the human body".
The researcher added: "Then you may be able to create a battery which continuously recharges itself, because these ionic gradients are constantly being re-established within the body."
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