Snails don’t have to be only annoying garden leaches anymore, but now can be used to generate electricity, says scientists from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York.
The team of scientists, led by Evgeny Katz, implanted snails with biofuel cells that harvest energy from a snail’s glucose. That energy can be used to power an external unit for months at a time.
According to Katz, the amount of electricity in question is tiny — 7.45 microwatts for the first 45 minutes — but 0.16 microwatts after that. Whatever devices they carry will have to function with that limitation. The team believes that the technology could be used to gather information for military or environmental purposes. The team also plans to expand their research to include lobsters.
The snails, for their part, do not seem to be bothered by the implants. Katz explained:
The animals are quite fit — they eat, drink and crawl. We take care to keep them alive and happy.
As long as they have technology that can function with such tiny amounts of power, the bio cell-fitted snails could be quite useful. Snails might be slow-moving and tend to go unnoticed even when they are seen (except in gardens) – so from a military perspective they would seem to have a lot going for them. As for gathering environmental data, given that they are usually in contact with leaves, soil, grass, etc., they could be useful for gathering information on environmental conditions or contaminants over an extended period of time.
So the next time you see an innocuous little snail quietly invading your garden, you might want to take a closer look.