The future of our biobased economy? Snail-powered cameras and crab-powered computers

Electrified snail

Experimental setup of the Electrified snail (© ACS)

With our conventional energy supplies getting more expensive or less reliable by the day, many researchers aim to find new sources of energy.

Sometimes those new energy sources seem a bit too farfetched to make it to general use.

We encountered two studies on such biobased power sources and just couldn’t withhold them from you. Who’s up for some snail and crab power?

Electrified snail

First off is the so-called electrified snail that was presented in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

An electrified snail you say? It is actually less farfetched than it sounds. In fact the snail is has joined a group of animals that could fill a small zoo in having a biofuel cell implanted that generates electricity from natural sugars in their bodies.

What makes the snail special is that it lived freely for several months with the implant without experiencing any harm from it, generating electricity all this time. But what use is a snail that produces a current?

According to the researchers they can be used to power small electronics. So next time you leave your home don’t forget your electrified snail for that extra bit of juice. In fact you can probably make your own. All you need is a tiny drill, some carbon nanotubes and two different kinds of enzymes.

Crab computer

Maybe not so much a new power source, but still a biobased ‘replacement’ for electricity, is the crab-powered computer. A research team from Kobe University in Japan discovered that when two swarms of soldier crabs collide, they unite and follow their course in the direction that is the sum of their velocities, which is in fact a relatively interesting ethologic observation.

But the researchers saw more and realised that this was all that is required to create the AND, OR and NOT logic gates necessary to make a computer. So they set up an experiment to find out if crabs could in fact be used to represent the 0 and 1 states of bits in computers. And as it turned out crab swarms are quite good at pretending to be bits.

This one might be a bit harder to copy for home-use since you would probably need millions of crabs and a couple of football fields of space to come anywhere near the processing power of a decent computer. But hey, if you want a biobased computer, this is what you get.

© Jorn van Dooren |

Comments are closed.