Science Podcasts

Question of the Week episode

Mon, 16th Mar 2015

Eels: A source of electricity?

Electric eel (c)

Bonga tweeted us asking if we could ever use eels as a source as electricity? Would it be efficient? And how would it compare to other energy sources? Khalil Thirlaway caught up with Dr David LaVan from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to find out...

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Apparently electric eels can generate a 2mS pulse of 500v and 1amp, not a very useful source of power syhprum, Mon, 16th Mar 2015

Does the buck have to stop there? Obviously, capturing eels and raising them for their energy would be inefficient, but what about just taking the mechanism they use and building on it. Could genetic engineering be used to increase the efficiency and/or amount of energy they release? What about using eel cells to build a biomechanical device? I'm not sure if there's an efficient way to nourish individual cells outside of a body, but grouping the cells to build a biological power source would allow you to skip the process of raising and domesticating. I'm not sure how much of what I'm saying is venturing outside of science in sci-fi, but I would love to hear a more in-depth follow up. Craig, Fri, 24th Jul 2015

This idea just needs the right application. Eels are not a plausible source of general purpose electrical energy as there are much more efficient and scalable methods of converting biofuel (food) into electricity. However, if certain bio-compatibility issues can be resolved, cultivated eel tissue could perhaps be used as a local power source for bio-implants. Other attempts at ATP based power sources for CMOS applications have proven quite difficult, e.g. ~Ken Seehart Ken Seehart, Thu, 17th Mar 2016

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