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Authors Note: How Plant-microbial Fuel Cells Work

If you think about it, building a battery that can run off of bacterial digestive processes brings us one step closer to cyborgs and self-powered machines. The human body relies on gut bacteria to convert food into energy; if we could tap into this process to juice fuel cells, then we might also power bodily implants, such as pacemakers.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already blurred this line, constructing a brain chip powered by glucose, which it harvests from recirculated cerebrospinal fluid [source: Rapoport, Kedzierski and Sarpeshkar]. Can cyberbrains be far behind? (Well, yes, probably).

Just imagine: We could build machines that graze! OK, that might not sound as sexy as ray guns and rocket ships, but such machines could remain active in the field indefinitely without need of a recharge or new batteries. A collection of MFCs could form a makeshift gut, pulling electricity from plant glucose.

Should someone pursue this idea, I hope they will employ PMFCs. I envision herds of white ceramic robots covered in Salvia hispanica, and I ask the question:

Do androids dream of electric Chia Pets?


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