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Tiny Fuel Cell Feeds on Human Blood

What's very small, electric and feeds on human blood?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver have developed a tiny fuel cell that uses brewer's yeast feeding on the sugar in human blood to generate electricity.

A staining substance commonly used by biologists, methyl blue, "steals" electrons from the yeast's breakdown of sugar, creating a tiny generator.

UBC faculty member Mu Chiao hopes the fuel cell can be used to power tiny medical devices, which currently run on batteries that are difficult to replace.

"This is a first step," commented Cornell researcher Lars Angenent, who was not involved in the study, to New Scientist magazine.

Still to be figured out, Angenent noted, was how the fuel cell would remove the yeast's waste products -- otherwise known as alcohol.

Mu Chiao and his grad student Chin-Pang-Billy Siu published their results in a recent issue of the Journal of Microelectrical Systems.

• Click here to read the journal abstract.

• Click here to read a less technical writeup in New Scientist.

• Click here for FOXNews.com's Patents and Innovation Center.

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