The Loh Down On Science

Powear

Move over, Energizer battery: Ineargizer is here!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and on harnessing energy from ears.

What?! It’s true. The inner ears of mammals produce a wee bit of electricity. A special structure in the cochlea pumps charged particles from one chamber into another. They flow back into the original chamber through a leaky membrane. This creates a constant circular flow of charged particles--that is, an electrical current. It’s what ultimately sparks the auditory nerve, allowing us to hear things.

Enter researchers from MIT. They built an implantable microchip that can tap this energy. The dime-sized device has minielectrodes that sip from the electrical current. The chip then amplifies and stores the charge for later. Voila! They tested it on Guinea pigs. It successfully powered sensors and a wireless transmitter that sent data on the rodent’s cochlea to a computer. Best part? It didn’t hamper hearing.

Thus paving the way for batteryless hearing aids, in-ear health monitors, and more.

We could wax on, but from what you've heard, your ears are current. Ouch.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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