This teeny hydroelectric generator can harvest energy from your blood flow

You could one day power electrical devices just by being alive, with a device that generates energy from blood flowing through your blood vessels. Like a tiny watermill sitting in your veins. We don't feel nauseous, you feel nauseous. 

A team of scientists working out of the University of Shanghai has published a paper showing that it has developed a lightweight power generator based on carbon nanotube fibers that are less than a millimeter in thickness, allowing it to fit into a blood vessel. 

The thread, referred to as the “fiber-shaped fluidic nanogenerator” (FFNG) was placed into a running saline solution and “electricity was derived from the relative movement between the FFNG and the solution”.

Power where you need it

According to the paper published in Angewandte Chemie, the FFNG had an energy conversion rate of more than 20%. That may not sound very much, but apparently it is greater than other types of miniature energy-harvesting devices. 

The use for this device could be powering internal electrical devices like pacemakers and deep brain stimulation devices used for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Currently, these sorts of devices either need an external battery or surgery to replace a battery. 

On top of that, if we do end up moving into an age with implanted brain-computer interfaces, an internal source of energy would be very useful. 

Apparently initial tests with frog nerves have proved to be effective. That said, we certainly won't be getting in line to get one placed into our veins any time soon. 


Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.