Electronics Powered by Fish Scales
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Electronics Powered by Fish Scales

January 17, 2020


What should you do with stinky old fish skins? How about powering your cellphone? I’m Anna Rothschild, and this is Gross Science. No matter how much you love fish, you’ll
likely toss the skin. But why let a good thing go to waste? Turns out, a team of physicists has found
a way to make fish scales into tiny electrical generators. So, how does it work? Well, fish scales, along with bones, cartilage,
and tendons, are all made of a protein called collagen. Collagen is a “piezoelectric” material,
which means that it creates an electric charge in response to a mechanical stress, like pressure. You can tap it, slap it, squeeze it, breeze
it; no matter what, it’ll make electrical energy. You might’ve seen piezoelectricity at work
this summer; it’s what makes barbecue lighters spark. When you press the trigger, it strikes a piezoelectric
quartz crystal, which in turn generates high voltage that creates a spark and lights the
fuel. The cool thing about these materials is that
they work in reverse, too. Feeding a piezoelectric material electricity
can make it change its shape or vibrate. This is how the tiny speakers in those novelty
cards work. You open the card, close the circuit, and
send electricity to a piezoelectric diaphragm. It deforms its shape and vibrates at specific
frequencies, creating sound waves. But back to fish skins. To make a tiny generator, the team collects
carp scales from a processing plant. They take these scales and put them in a solution
that makes them flexible and transparent. Add electrodes and laminate the whole thing,
and you have a biodegradable energy harvester. Potential uses include small electronics that
you can bend, see through, and even eat. And it’s all because of fish skin. It’s basically the ultimate upcycling project! I should put that on my Pinterest board… Perhaps the coolest thing about the microgenerator
is its high sensitivity to pressure. Just tapping four of them can power 50 LEDs. It’s able to pick up mechanical energy from
ambient body movements, wind flow, and even sound vibrations. You could power your phone just by walking—no
charger needed. And because it’s made of collagen, the generator
could be “biocompatible.” That means it’s not harmful to living tissue,
like your skin or organs. After all, so much of your body is already
made of collagen. So, beyond handheld electronics, physicists
are exploring medical applications like insulin pumps or pacemakers. The tiny movement of your heart beating would
provide enough mechanical energy to keep the generator going. Which is super cool! … As long as you can get over having dead
fish parts in your body. Ew.

68 Comments

  • Reply Rileah Daly November 16, 2016 at 12:22 am

    first like

  • Reply Noah Wolcott November 16, 2016 at 12:23 am

    Lel it's reupload

  • Reply Logic2x November 16, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Can you do a video on how your channel started

  • Reply jiffyb333 November 16, 2016 at 12:25 am

    I appreciate the move to correct your mistakes. 🙂

  • Reply Vernon Balbert November 16, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Why would it be gross to put dead fish skin in your body? We've been using dead pig parts for decades (heart valve replacements.)

  • Reply Thomas Chase November 16, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Be something to see their untimely extinction due to ocean acidification due to global warming

  • Reply David Scott November 16, 2016 at 12:52 am

    You're awesome!

  • Reply LUTHENATIC goda-se November 16, 2016 at 12:58 am

    Adoro seus vídeos <3 Muito bom

  • Reply behnam shamsaddin November 16, 2016 at 1:12 am

    Anna is there any chance of obtaining one of these "fish-generators" or no? Because I was thinking of powering little moving devices (toy cars, etc).

  • Reply Rose Gold November 16, 2016 at 1:31 am

    I like how she talks with her hands, just like me lol

  • Reply SlyPearTree November 16, 2016 at 1:50 am

    Are both fish skin and fish scales collagens? I'll eat the first but not the second.

  • Reply Godof thedesecrated November 16, 2016 at 2:28 am

    That's so cool! This is the first I remember herring about using fish scales for anything useful other than cheap armor, smelly cheap armor.

  • Reply HebaruSan November 16, 2016 at 2:29 am

    Of all the components of an insulin pump, the battery is probably the least in need of improvement. They run for weeks on one AAA. If that suddenly wasn't enough, upgrading the unit to use to AA batteries would be far simpler than developing some tiny fish scale generator.

  • Reply lee Oliver November 16, 2016 at 2:40 am

    It is only a matter of time until these are powering sex toys

  • Reply Crazy_Clownfish November 16, 2016 at 3:47 am

    I'd like to see these used to power smart watches like say a Fitbit, where it would track your steps and be powered at the same time.

  • Reply Joe Frailey November 16, 2016 at 3:48 am

    Ok, love the show. Now on to the question. I have often gone to a grocery stores meat and fish department. And smelled the odor of fish. Not a smell of fresh fish but decaying fish smell. What is this odor and why does it happen?

  • Reply Víctor Pérez November 16, 2016 at 3:56 am

    Hey there Anna, Nice to see you again.

  • Reply Not That Guy November 16, 2016 at 4:04 am

    Bop it.

  • Reply Mark N. November 16, 2016 at 4:18 am

    I f**** love science!

  • Reply Buddy Mayfield November 16, 2016 at 5:47 am

    my fish do not approve

  • Reply Dj Starbuck November 16, 2016 at 6:44 am

    love it

  • Reply Pranav Dhunnoo November 16, 2016 at 7:55 am

    wow! great info! thanks Anna!

  • Reply Hartono Wijaya Akselerasi November 16, 2016 at 9:12 am

    in the future, people walk outside to make electricity, not only to play pokemon

  • Reply Faces Deluxe 9000+ November 16, 2016 at 9:13 am

    More like Fishycists

  • Reply Faces Deluxe 9000+ November 16, 2016 at 9:16 am

    2:32 Great for pokemon go!!

  • Reply Nicholas Cook November 16, 2016 at 9:43 am

    This is definitely among my top 5 favourite channels.

  • Reply Alexander Morteo Vermillious November 16, 2016 at 10:05 am

    I love science
    Especially the "gross" nitty gritty of it :)))

  • Reply Mathieu Leader November 16, 2016 at 11:19 am

    ichthyosis is a terrible skin condition

  • Reply Mathieu Leader November 16, 2016 at 11:33 am

    do eels work on the same principle

  • Reply Ben Wilson November 16, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    I shall eat them all and become more powerful than all.  Bwhahaha.  Applying biorhythm and ultra sound for recharge for the next level.  Now lets talk about that awful display of animal cruelty in the background.  A unicorn's head on your mantle?  They are almost extinct all ready.  Shame.  (Actually, they are learning to convert the collagen in their horns into batteries to power lasers to rule the world.  Your days are numbered speciesist.)

  • Reply Greg Johnston November 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    I listened to your interview on NPR last week. It was very exciting.

  • Reply Valken November 16, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Why some people think homosexuality is gross?

  • Reply Edwin Mejia November 16, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    this topic is very interesting, I hope more people would look into it.
    I love your videos, some offers fresh insights on things that has been taken for granted. 🙂

  • Reply Bob Airhart November 17, 2016 at 2:39 am

    Thank you for the interesting video.Nature sure does things that never cease to amaze me.Not so gross but very engrossing just the same! Anna you rock,please keep up the interesting videos.

  • Reply Nick Hare November 17, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Are they even really fish scales anymore? They were treated extensively to make them transparent and to accept current efficiently. They're analogous to the resemblance of a plastic bottle that was recycled into a plastic bag.

  • Reply Martin November 17, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I mean, I get dead fish parts in my body every time I eat (fish).

  • Reply shadwo xii November 18, 2016 at 5:30 am

    why chese smell bad?

  • Reply Travis Hunt YouTube PhD November 20, 2016 at 1:06 am

    I subbed. But, I am pretty annoyed that you think this is all 'gross'. Any professional would disagree and some would be offened.

  • Reply Santiago González Benjumea November 21, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Love the show, and love that boot behind you, by the way, talking about fishes you could make a video about a metabolic disorder called Trimethylaminuria also known as fish odor syndrome. 🙂

  • Reply Mike Holmes November 21, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    I'd like to put my tendon inside you lol

  • Reply Mike Holmes November 21, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    I feel horrible for saying that it just felt like the right thing to do

  • Reply Linus Hyper November 23, 2016 at 11:20 am

    "New videos every monday"

  • Reply Hamdi Belhajhassine November 23, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Hi, i'd like to know whether it is possible to do this experiment for a project. Can it work with other kinds of fish or is it specific to that indian fish with which the research was conducted?

  • Reply elijah kv December 4, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    I'm dolphinatly going to put this to use
    These jokes are cheesy….
    I cod stop
    But whale I ?

    I have no friends

  • Reply akber360 December 10, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    wow this video is underrated, this is such an amazing idea I would love more videos about this idea.

  • Reply Victim of Bass December 18, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Why does this channel have so little views?

  • Reply Akash N January 7, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Super Superb!! Super Superb!! Super Superb!!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Legal Eagle Feathers February 11, 2017 at 2:45 am

    "dead fish parts in your body"
    Well, some people always did wanna be mermaids…

  • Reply [OB] me? April 18, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Can you do a video on vermicomposting? I love gardening and worms!

  • Reply science nerd May 30, 2017 at 7:13 am

    how much voltage can it produce

  • Reply Harold Hart July 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    SHE HAS ALOT OF ENERGY

  • Reply Guppy Tail July 17, 2017 at 5:05 am

    Why are 2 people so salty???

  • Reply wow thats July 17, 2017 at 5:27 am

    "as long as you can tolerate having dead fish parts in your body"
    is that not what happens when you eat fish anyway?

  • Reply Trap Daddy July 18, 2017 at 4:51 am

    vegans wouldnt use the technology though

  • Reply L. Francesca July 26, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Just another reason for me to love fish even more! Bless fish. Love them so much.

  • Reply Patrick McCurry August 11, 2017 at 1:05 am

    The energy has to come from somewhere. So walking would be slightly more tiring because it's taking some of that energy to power the generator.

  • Reply Vincent Timbro October 6, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Wow so you could turn humans into batteries!

    Wait wait wait. I saw this movie… it didn't turn out too well for the humans.

  • Reply Shelby Shum November 14, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Salmon skin roll is awesome!

  • Reply Some Random Dancer March 21, 2018 at 1:37 am

    Splatoon IRL….. Coming soon to the world around you.

  • Reply Fairyonte March 29, 2018 at 12:52 am

    wrong
    you can charge your cellphone with charger

  • Reply Joshua Jackson August 16, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    The skin is the best part? Who throws it away

  • Reply Shaquil Sebastian August 20, 2018 at 5:43 am

    Hello, What kind of solution does the Fish scale are submerged to become flexible and transparent?

  • Reply Tamara Foster August 29, 2018 at 12:50 am

    I still need to pee

  • Reply 루나쯔♡ October 6, 2018 at 3:46 am

    Anna I live in south korea and we sometimes eat cooked fish skin.

  • Reply The25kubalok April 14, 2019 at 7:21 am

    The question is… Who was the first person that tried charging his phone with dead fish…

  • Reply Sarojini Chandra June 4, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Can u do an experiment on this fish scale

  • Reply Saswata Mondal Mondal September 13, 2019 at 3:46 am

    Please can you send a picture of the procedure

  • Reply river humphreys December 5, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    very cool

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