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Biofuel implants can turn snails into spies

Snails are slimy things that most of us would want to be kept out of sight, and for that exact reason they should be used as spies.


A slow moving snail that leaves behind sticky footprints is no 007, but its ability to go squirm around unnoticed makes it an ideal prospect for future government spying endeavors.  Tag that onto the fact that Evgeny Katz, a chemist at Clarkson University, is devising a type biofuel cell contraption that can extract energy off a snail’s body, and you can have an almost undetectable spy agent in anyone’s yard.

“Our biofuel cell generates power from glucose sugar in a snail’s body. We drill holes through the shell and implant enzyme-coated electrodes in the hemolymph, or snail blood, that naturally collects between the snail’s body and shell. Like any battery, ours is based on chemical reactions that create a flow of electrons. One electrode grabs electrons from glucose in the hemolymph. The electrons then travel through an external circuit—including any device we want to power—and end up at the opposing electrode. There, the electrons react with oxygen in the hemolymph to form water. The power output is small, in the range of microwatts, and runs out after a few minutes as the glucose is depleted. After harvesting energy, the snail eats and drinks, restoring glucose levels in its body, and it can then generate power again. The snails don’t appear to be harmed by the biocell.”

There are, of course, limiting factors in using a snail as a spy agent; because (1) of the minute amount of harvestable energy on their body, and (2) that it takes time for the glucose to diffuse to the implanted electrode.  The idea isn’t to have snails charge a cellphone while they’re in the field, but rather to have them carry small sensors which can collect data and transmit them back to HQ.

“A snail couldn’t charge a cellphone, but it could power small sensors.  That’s another idea—to employ snails, worms and insects for environmental monitoring and homeland security.”

Next up is for researchers to create an anti-dehydration suit to protect these unsuspecting snail agents from salt-bearing kids, and rigorous training to prepare them for the fast life.

Source: popsci

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