Implantable, Biofuel-Powered Sensor Monitors Body’s Biological Signals

A cross-disciplinary research team led by Subhanshu Gupta, assistant professor in Washington State University’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has designed an implantable, biofuel-powered sensor that runs on glucose harvested from body fluids and can monitor a body’s biological signals in order to detect, prevent and diagnose diseases.

“The human body carries a lot of fuel in its bodily fluids through blood glucose or lactate around the skin and mouth. Using a biofuel cell opens the door to using the body as potential fuel,” said Gupta.

The sensor is a unique integration of a biofuel cell with electronics to process physiological and biochemical signals with high sensitivity. The electronics in the sensor use unique design and fabrication to consume only few microwatts of power. Pairing these electronics with the biofuel cell makes the sensor more efficient than the usual battery-powered devices. The sensor can be powered indefinitely since it runs on body glucose. Unlike the commonly used lithium-ion batteries, it is entirely non-toxic, giving it great potential as an implant for people. The sensor is more stable and more sensitive than traditional biofuel cells, cost-effective, and can be manufactured cheaply through mass production.

Regulatory approval will be required in order to test the sensors in vivo – but lab results have proven promising. The researchers continue to work to further enhance and increase the power output of their biofuel cell.

“This brings together the technology for making a biofuel cell with our sophisticated electronics. It’s a very good marriage that could work for many future applications,” expressed Gupta.

Their work recently was published in the IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems journal.