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Eel-ectricity

October 28, 2008

Scientists make shocking discoveries about electric eels.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
A shocking discovery about eels….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Electric eels stun their prey with up to 600 volts of electricity, using specialized cells called electrocytes. Researchers Jian Xu of Yale and David Lavan of the National Institute of Standards and Technology studied how these cells work. Their goal is to design artificial eel-inspired cells to power medical implants. Lavan says electrocytes work by pushing sodium ions out and allowing potassium ions in. The result is a difference in ion concentrations between the inside and outside of the cell.

DAVID LAVAN (National Institute of Standards and Technology):
And if you release that concentration difference in a controlled way, you can actually produce electricity in a useful way. This would allow you to exploit naturally available energy sources such as ATP in the body to power very small sensors or other types of implants.