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Synthetic cells shed biological insights while delivering battery power
Date:10/22/2009

oncentrations in the droplets eventually equalize as the system discharges its electric potential.

Building synthetic versions of complex real cellssuch as those that enable an electric eel to zap its preyis far too difficult a task for now, says LaVan. So the researchers instead created this far simpler system whose performance they could understand in terms a handful of basic properties, including the size of the droplets, the concentration of the aqueous solutions, and the number of ion channels in the barrier between the two cells.

A tiny battery with two droplets, each containing just 200 nanoliters of solution, could deliver electricity for almost 10 minutes. A bigger system, with a total volume of almost 11 microliters, lasted more than four hours. In terms of the energy it can deliver for a given volume, the biological battery is only about one-twentieth as effective as a conventional lead-acid battery. But in its ability to convert chemical into electrical energy, the synthetic cell has an efficiency of about 10 per cent, which compares well with solid-state devices that generate electricity from heat, light, or mechanical stressso that synthetic cells may one day take their place in the nanotechnology toolbox.


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Contact: Ben Stein
ben.stein@nist.gov
301-975-3097
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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