MIT Current Affairs

Researchers develop battery powered by stomach acid

Researchers from MIT have developed a small battery that runs on stomach acids and is capable of powering e-pills to monitor patient health.

The small system can generate enough power to run small sensors or drug delivery devices that can reside in the gastrointestinal tract for extended periods of time.

Key Facts
  • For this battery, researchers used idea of very simple type of voltaic cell, lemon battery which produces electric current between the two electrodes stuck in a lemon due to its citric acid.
  • To replicate it, the researchers attached zinc and copper electrodes to the surface of their ingestible sensor. The zinc emits ions into the acid in the stomach to power the voltaic circuit.
  • It can generate enough energy to power a commercial temperature sensor and a 900-megahertz transmitter to wirelessly transmit the data to a base station located 2m away, with a signal sent every 12 seconds.
  • The current prototype of the device is a cylinder about 12 millimeters in diameter and 40 millimeters long. Researchers are anticipating to make the capsule about one-third that size.
  • Significance: It offers a safer and lower-cost alternative to the traditional batteries used to power such devices.
  • It can also help in manufacturing new generation of electronic ingestible pills that could enable novel ways of monitoring patient health and treating disease.


MIT scientists develop new technique to find signs of life on Mars

Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) US have developed a novel spectroscopic technique to find signs of present or former extraterrestrial life on the Mars.

The technique incorporated on instrument dubbed as SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) may help NASA’s new Mars rover to be launched in 2020 to find signs of life on Mars.

What will new Mars rover do?

  • The new Mars rover will be tasked to probe a region of the planet scientists believe could hold remnants of ancient microbial life.
  • It will collect samples of rocks and soil, and store them on the Martian surface and these samples would be returned to Earth so that scientists can meticulously analyse them.
  • The rover can quickly and non-invasively identify sediments on the Mars that are relatively unaltered, and that maintain much of their original composition.

How it will work?

  • The new technique centres on a new way to interpret results of Raman spectroscopy, a common, non-destructive process that geologists use to identify chemical composition of ancient rocks.
  • Among its suite of scientific tools, the 2020 Mars rover includes SHERLOC, an instrument that will acquire Raman spectra from samples on or just below the Mar’s surface.
  • SHERLOC will be pivotal in determining whether life ever existed on Mars. Using it will be able to estimate the ratio of hydrogen to carbon atoms from the substructure of the peaks in Raman spectra.