Glowing Green Jellyfish Goo Could Power Medical Devices

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Green and blue glowing jellyfish in the sea.

SophonK / Getty Images

Thanks to more acidic oceans, jellyfish populations seem to be flourishing. While they aren't exactly edible for humans, they might be useful for powering nanodevices. Swedish researchers have been turning thousands of Aequorea victoria, a common North American jellyfish species, into liquid and extracting a green fluorescent protein (GFP) that makes the animals glow in the dark to see if it can also help create a biofuel cell that will generate small amounts of energy -- enough to power microscopic nanodevices.

The species of jellyfish is known for its ability to produce flashes of blue light that turns green, a chemistry that has been studied for several years among biological researchers. It's bioluminosity could now come in handy on the tiniest of scales.

PhysOrg reports that Zackary Chiragwandi from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and his research team have found that a drop of the protein placed on aluminum electrodes and exposed to ultraviolet light can create a nanoscale electrical current. That current is enough to power a nanodevice, such as those being created for use in the medical industry for helping to do everything form image tumors, monitor blood sugar levels, or diagnose illnesses.

And while it seems handy enough for now to catch jellyfish to gather the green fluorescent protein, other researchers are working on methods to create an artificial version of it, eliminating the need to puree jellies. And it would also make the fuel source cheaper. Other light-powered cells use titanium oxide which boosts the expense of powering nanodevices.

From New Scientist, "The green goo acts like the dye used in current "dye-sensitised" solar cells, called Grätzel cells. However, unlike such cells, the GFP does not require the addition of expensive materials, such as titanium dioxide particles. Instead, the GFP can be placed directly on top of the electrode, simplifying the design and reducing overall cost."

Instead, the GFP is combined with enzymes found in bioluminescent animals like fireflies, rather than an outside light source. In this way, the total cost is dropped, and we have the possibility of inexpensive power for microscopic medical devices.