Deep inside your ears, a membrane turns vibrations from your eardrums into an electrical signal that reaches your brain — an arrangement that scientists call a "biological battery." For the first time, researchers have harnessed this natural battery to power a wireless implanted chip without disrupting the delicate process of hearing.
Research teams from MIT, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology carefully implanted a low-power chip deep within the ear, which could then be used to transmit diagnostic data about the state of the inner ear. The ear's biological battery doesn't generate much energy to begin with, and researchers were only able to use a small fraction of it to power the chip and transmitter to avoid disrupting hearing.
Although the study focused only on guinea pigs, researchers project that the technology, once perfected, could be used for diagnostic purposes and to power cochlear implants in humans — not to mention the exciting applications biohackers can dream up.