Earlier this year we reported that researchers had implanted a cockroach with an enzyme-based biofuel cell that could potentially be used to power various sensors, recording devices, or electronics used to control an insect cyborg. While it may not be the most dynamic of creatures, a team from Clarkson University has now performed a similar feat with a living snail.

The biofuel cell implanted into the snail by a team led by Evgeny Katz, the Milton Kerker Chaired Professor of Colloid Science at Clarkson University, was able to operate continuously producing electrical power for most of the snail's six month lifespan, using only the snail’s physiologically produced glucose and oxygen in the snail’s blood as a fuel.

Through appropriate feeding and relaxing, the snail was able to regenerate the glucose consumed by the biofuel cell’s biocatalytic electrodes, before then producing another jolt of electrical energy whenever they are hooked up to an external circuit.

The team says the implanted biofuel cell would be able to operate in a natural environment, making it suitable for powering various bioelectronics devices. According to nature, Katz’s snails were capable of producing up to 7.45 microwatts, but this decreased by 80 percent after 45 minutes. Reducing the extracted power to 0.16 microwatts allowed for the drawing of continuous power.

With a view to extracting more power, Katz is looking to move onto larger animals with faster metabolisms – namely lobsters.

Katz’s research was published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.