Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have succeeded in extracting electricity from cockroaches, by letting them act as cheap biofuel cells. The research is published in the online Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The technique works by adding a series of enzymes to the cockroach’s food. The enzymes break down complex molecules which the cockroach produces when it eats, and oxidizing the resulting sugars to release electrons. The current flows as electrons are drawn to the cathode, where oxygen from air takes up the electrons and is reduced to water.
This way the cockroach can be turned into a walking lightweight rechargeable bio battery. The researchers see the possibility of creating a big energy insect farm. The scale of such farm needs to be big, the maximum power density of the fuel cell reached nearly 100 microwatts per square centimeter at 0.2 volts, with a maximum current density of about 450 microamps per square centimeter. The cockroaches suffered no long-term damage.