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The Hyp-Phe-Phe molecule can operate devices such as pacemakers or streetlights, sans batteries, simply by harnessing the force of nearby movements.

By Naama Barak, Israel21c

A biological material developed by nanotech scientists can generate electric currents and voltage cleanly, using surrounding movements to charge up.

Two years ago, an international research group led by scientists from Tel Aviv University published a paper about this material – a molecule called Hyp-Phe-Phe. It resembles collagen, a protein whose strength and flexibility make it useful in many applications, but is much shorter and simpler.

Now, in a study published in Nature Communications, the researchers show that the new material shares another feature with collagen – piezoelectricity.

“Piezoelectricity is the ability of a material to generate electric currents and voltage as a result of the application of mechanical force, or vice versa, to create a mechanical force as the result of exposure to an electric field,” explained TAU’s Prof. Ehud Gazit.

“Most of the piezoelectric materials that we know of today are toxic lead-based materials, or polymers, meaning they are not environmentally and human body-friendly. Our new material, however, is completely biological, and therefore suitable for uses within the body.”

For example, a device made from Hyp-Phe-Phe could replace a battery in implants like pacemakers. Heartbeats, jaw movements, bowel movements, or any other movement that occurs in the body on a regular basis would charge the device with electricity to continuously activate the implant.

The researchers are looking into developing medical devices, but their research could also be utilized in other fields to produce green energy using mechanical force that is being used anyway. For example, a car driving down the street can turn on the streetlights, Gazit said.

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