Saliva-powered chip ‘could be used in treatment of epilepsy’

Posted May 9 2014 in Other treatments

An international research team has been able to create an electronic chip powered by saliva that could be used in the treatment of epilepsy and other health conditions in future.

Developed by scientists at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and Penn State University in the US, the fingernail-sized microbial fuel cell is capable of generating one microwatt of power, simply by utilising the chemicals, nutrients and agents present in human spit.

The new device has been shown to be capable of generating higher current densities than other equivalent micron-sized microbial fuel cells, while the graphene anode also generates 40 times as much power as a carbon cloth variant.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said the new technology could have a wide range of applications.

He said: “Although predominantly water, saliva is composed of inorganic and organic components, such as glucose, that can be utilised for fuel by bacteria. If the technology is available, it could open the door to a new world of healthcare.”

The microchip could be used in the creation of various implantable medical devices, including devices that alarm people with epilepsy about possible seizure. The amount of power generated by the chip would be more than sufficient to support such a usage, as one microwatt is the same amount needed to power some watches and calculators.

It could also be used to monitor conductivity in a woman’s saliva in order to detect the changes that generally occur around five days prior to ovulation. This would help to maintain the person’s health and allow couples to experience easier family planning via a non-invasive, easy-to-use method.

The team is now looking at possible ways of increasing the device’s power output by creating more efficient electrodes and experimenting with multiple cells, strung out in a series.

Posted by Bob Jones

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