What you're looking at here is a heart, ticking inside a cow. Being affixed to the heart is a new device, a thin, adhesive piezoelectric generator. Designed and built by Canan Dagdeviren and colleagues, this little generator can turn the beating of a heart, or the inflating of a lung, into electricity.
Right now, the researchers are focused on one day powering the existing, implantable electronics that many people rely on to live. Think pacemakers or neural stimulators. Today, these devices run on batteries, which run dry and need to be replaced. “Battery replacement requires surgery, which can be expensive for the patient and unavoidably creates some risk of infection or other complications,” says Sarah Fecht for Popular Mechanics.
But if the researchers' plan to harness energy from bodily functions works—and preliminary research has so far shown that it does—who knows what our bodies could be powering in the future? Robotic arms, controlled directly by the brain? Circuits embedded in a contact lens? Full body armor that doubles as life support?