Biobattery-embedded tattoos to use sweat to power your tech

Scientists have developed a temporary tattoo with a built-in, sweat-powered biobattery that could one day be used to charge your phone while you are out for a run.

The biobattery works using lactate, a key chemical found in sweat that can be used to monitor exercise performance.

This means that the more the wearer sweats, the more energy is going to be produced, creating the interesting scenario where less physically fit people are able to produce more power.

The technology is one of the first examples of skin-based power sources, and could pave the way for a host of technologies powered by devices attached to the skin.


The biobattery works by using an enzyme to extract the electrons in the sweat’s lactate and move them to the battery. At present, the amount of energy produced is very small, but the researchers are confident that they will be able to develop this to enable small electronic devices to be charged.

“The current produced is not that high, but we are working on enhancing it so that eventually we could power some small electronic devices,” said Dr Wenzhao Jia, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California San Diego.

“Right now, we can get a maximum of 70 microWatts per cm², but our electrodes are only 2 by 3 millimeters in size and generate about 4 microWatts — a bit small to generate enough power to run a watch, for example, which requires at least 10 microWatts.

“So besides working to get higher power, we also need to leverage electronics to store the generated current and make it sufficient for these requirements.”

The device has also been developed as a lactate monitor, which will be a valuable tool for both doctors and athletes. Previously lactate has been monitored using a series of blood tests, so this monitor is likely to prove simpler and less invasive.

The biobattery’s reliance on sweat means that the amount of power produced can vary significantly depending on the person wearing it.

The researchers tested the initial biobattery on 15 exercise bike-riding volunteers, and found that not only did those who were least fit produce the most energy, but the most regularly active participants produced the least energy.

This could affect the potential success of the technology, as such variation in performance could make it difficult to market.

However, this is one of the first examples of skin-based batteries, and the technology is likely to be developed much further.

“These represent the first examples of epidermal electrochemical biosensing and biofuel cells that could potentially be used for a wide range of future applications,” said Dr Joseph Wang, professor of nanoengineering at University of California San Diego.

From here we could see the development of an array of wearable technologies and gadgets siphoning power through our skin, perhaps even one day powering whole computers, medical augmentations and more.

Inline image courtesy of Dr Joseph Wang.

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Alzheimer’s breakthrough paves way for new approach to treatment

A breakthrough in the understanding of how Alzheimer’s affects the brain is allowing scientists to pursue fresh avenues of research that could produce new forms of treatment for the devastating disease.

It’s been known for some time that synapses – the connections between brain cells – are destroyed in the early stages of the disease, but now scientists at UNSW Australia have discovered how.

“Synapses are required for all brain functions, and particularly for learning and forming memories. In Alzheimer’s disease, this loss of synapses occurs very early on, when people still only have mild cognitive impairment, and long before the nerve cells themselves die,” said study leader Dr Vladimir Sytnyk, from the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences.

“We have identified a new molecular mechanism which directly contributes to this synapse loss – a discovery we hope could eventually lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease and new treatments.”


The discovery was achieved using two separate but supporting approaches, both of which focused around neural cell adhesion molecule 2 (NCAM2), a protein in the brain that, along with others, connects synapses’ membranes and keeps the the connections between brain cells stable.

The first approach was to study post-mortem brain tissue from individuals with and without Alzheimer’s. In doing this, the researchers found that the people with Alzheimer’s had lower levels of synaptic NCAM2 in the brain’s hippocampus – an area of the brain that plays a key role in spatial navigation and transferring memories from short to long-term.

The second approach concerned mice studies, which found that NCAM2 was broken down by the most common form of plaque that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, beta-amyloid.


Published today in the journal Nature Communications, the research is an early step on the road to a true treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but a significant one.

“Our research shows the loss of synapses is linked to the loss of NCAM2 as a result of the toxic effects of beta-amyloid,” said Sytnyk.

“It opens up a new avenue for research on possible treatments that can prevent the destruction of NCAM2 in the brain.”

Long battery life, simple controls: Parrot creates a drone that’s truly for the masses

A new drone from Parrot is set to make filming and flying easier and more widespread than ever before thanks to its lightweight design, ease of use and long battery life.

Launched in the UK at an event today, the Bebop 2 drone is just 500g and can stay in the air for 25 minutes, making it a serious step up from its predecessor.

“This has really increased the possibilities to fly, take pictures and explore,” said Parrot regional manager for the UK and northern Europe Micheal Luke at today’s event. “It’s a product that anybody can fly.”

It is designed to be controlled either with an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet using simple and clear controls, or with the weighty but richly featured Parrot Skycontroller. The drone also boasts a 14 megapixel camera and impressive 3-axis digital stabilisation, allowing it to hover comfortably and capture stable images and video for as long as needed.

Images courtesy of Parrot

Images courtesy of Parrot

Scheduled for release at a price of £439.99 ($549 / €549) in December – the precise date is still to be confirmed – the drone can withstand winds of up to 65kmph, making it a fantastic option for outdoorsy types and holiday makers looking to capture some unorthodox shots of their trip.

“You can take it anywhere with you: on a mission, on holidays,” said Luke, adding that the drone had been extensively tested in wind tunnels. “That really gives you the possibility of going out there and using the Bebop 2 in tough conditions.”

The team behind Bebop 2 have even tested it on the top of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, at an altitude of 3300m.

With a view to making the drone as easy to control as physically possible, Parrot has also created a number of supporting features on its companion app. One of the highlights of these is the free flight plan, which lets you plan out a route with stops by tapping on the screen, which the drone will then follow.

“Everything can be programmed,” said Luke. “Press the magical button and it will film automatically.”

There is also a Black Box feature that lets users review past flights and a 3D model app to create 3D renderings of real environments. A selfie app that will allow users to program the drone to take shots of themselves without the usual awkward selfie stick is also in the works.

In an attempt to allay the usual concerns that arise when companies put drones into the hands of novice consumers, Parrot has also included an automatic shut-off feature to prevent injury if the drone comes into contact with a human, and is bundling in an array of safety guides to encourage safe practices.