Bioelectronics and the e-Body

The book by Rahul Sarpeshkar (Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics: Fundamentals, Biomedical Applications, and Bio-Inspired Systems) is a reminder that topics which seemed like science fiction a few years ago (such as integrating devices into the body) are now outlined in respectable 1,000-page textbooks. Admittedly, Sarpeshkar’s book on bioelectronics is two years old, which in net-singularity-dog years is half a lifetime, but still, there is no gainsaying that the times are changing. One reviewer says that “If you are curious about batteries, information theory, neurons, sensory systems, feedback, energy, or computation – then this book is for you.”

Research proceeds apace on the details of the possibility of merging human and machine, for example the recent proof-of-concept for a fuel cell powered by glucose by the same author and a team at MIT. “The idea of a glucose fuel cell is not new: In the 1970s, scientists showed they could power a pacemaker with a glucose fuel cell, but the idea was abandoned in favor of lithium-ion batteries, which could provide significantly more power per unit area than glucose fuel cells.”

There is a fair smattering of equations in the original research article, dealing with oxygen and glucose gradients, power, etc, but the important thing to note is that the amount of power that this kind of fuel cell can generate is in the range of today’s (shrinking) neurological implantable devices. In other words, this may be benchtop science today, but it could well be tomorrow’s clinical trial. Paraplegics, quadraplegics, stroke victims, and many others may queue up to get their muscles and limbs back through the integration of such a device in the nervous system.

And then where will we be?

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