Microsupercapacitor project packs AAA battery voltage into a speck of 'dust'

Researchers have managed to pack the same amount of voltage found in a AAA battery cell into a microsupercapacitor as small as a speck of dust. This is the first time such an achievement has been reported, paving the way for tiny energy storage systems that can be safely embedded in the human body for biomedical gadgets and treatments.

The new technology is presented as a promising foundation for future biomedical devices that would be implanted within the body. Such systems may involve simple tech like tiny sensors to monitor blood or larger, more sophisticated systems to, for example, dispense insulin or support a failing organ.

Systems implanted in the body must be safe, small, and have enough power to operate — and the power issue is, for the most part, the biggest hurdle to implantable technology. Researchers with the Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany may have developed a solution, and it comes in an incredibly small form factor.

The researchers focused specifically on "biosupercapacitors," which are very tiny supercapacitors that are made from a biocompatible material and that can harvest energy from the body. Until now, the smallest of these devices measured 3mm cubed, which has been trumped by the latest prototype: its volume is a mere 0.001mm cubed.

As such, the biosupercapacitor is able to deliver up to 1.6 volts despite being smaller than a speck of dust. It's important to note that while the voltage is similar to an AAA battery, the amount of current that can flow through them is much lower.

The study reports that this microsupercapacitor was able to power an integrated sensor system that measures pH blood value. As well, the energy storage system was able to handle realistic blood vessel conditions in simulated microfluidic channels, which imitated changes in blood pressure and flow.