Tiny sensors implanted into the body for medical monitoring can be powered in one of two ways: by metabolizing surrounding sugar or by harvesting the mechanical energy generated by small vibrations. A group led by Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta now describes a device (pictured) that can harvest energy from either source, or both at once.
The carbon fibre carries a biofuel cell on one end that uses immobilized enzymes to break down glucose and generate current. The other end is coated with a zinc oxide film, which generates current when force is applied. The researchers made measurements on a bundle of about 1,000 such fibres.
The hybrid generator can also be used to detect pressure variation in biological liquids such as blood, the researchers suggest.
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Sugar and shake sensor power. Nature 478, 158 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/478158c