Scientists have discovered they can harness your tears to make electricity

Leslie Hanson
October 4, 2017

The new research from experts in Ireland has found tears, as well as other human fluids like saliva and milk, can generate power.

Researchers from the University of Limerick found that applying pressure to a protein found in tears can actually generate electricity. Bone, tendon and wood are long known to possess piezoelectricity.

Lysozyme has piezoelectricity levels similar to quartz, making it a promising material to squash for electricity.

"In fact, it is the second protein structure and the first enzyme structure that was ever solved", says one of the team, structural biologist Tewfik Soulimane, "but we are the first to use these crystals to show the evidence of piezoelectricity".

It is particularly promising for medical use, being a biological material, and could be used to target medicines to specific areas in the body. Just apply pressure and feel the power, a team of scientists at the University of Limerick's Bernal Institute in Ireland report in the October 2 issue of the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters.

"The extent of the piezoelectricity in lysozyme crystals is of the same order of magnitude found in quartz".

It's all thanks to a protein called lysozyme, which generates electricity when it's put under pressure, and if we can harvest it effectively it could become a new fuel source for all kinds of implanted devices.

Aimee Stapleton, IRC EMBARK Postgraduate Fellow at University of Limerick and lead author of The Direct Piezoelectric Effect in the Globular Protein Lysozyme published on October 2 in Applied Physics Letters. However, they have been using complex hierarchical structures such as tissues, cells or polypeptides for the same while "investigating simpler fundamental building blocks" can also help them get similar results.

According to the researchers, the discovery may have wide reaching applications and could lead to further research in energy harvesting and flexible electronics for biomedical devices.

Being naturally biocompatible and piezoelectric, lysozyme may present an alternative to conventional piezoelectric energy harvesters, many of which contain toxic elements such as lead, the researchers noted.

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