Start-up harvests electricity from human cells

January 13, 2022 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Start-up extracts electrical energy from human cells
With energy harvesting from the body's own cells instead of batteries, the Dresden-based start-up Celtro GmbH intends to open up new applications in the medical field. Battery depletion, device replacement, exchange operations and charging stations for self-sufficient implants should thus become a thing of the past.

"Moore's Law is our friend," says Gerd Teepe, co-founder and managing director of Celtro GmbH. "Today's semiconductor technologies are amazingly powerful. 1000 billion computing operations per second can be performed with less than 1 watt of energy input. Biological processes, however, are much slower. This enables us to reduce the energy consumption to a few nanowatts. This is sufficient for biological functions and low enough to be generated by the tissue itself. Self-sufficient, implantable systems become possible."

As part of the team of four founders, Teepe contributes his semiconductor expertise to Celtro's business idea. With many years of experience at Motorola, AMD and GlobalFoundries, he contributes extensive know-how for the design of extremely power-saving transistor technologies. "You have to go very deep into technologies like FinFet and FDSOI to design circuits whose power consumption is in the nanowatt range," Teepe says.

Co-founder, Dr.-med. Judith Piorkowski, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, elaborates: "A cell takes sugar as an energy source and converts it into electrical and mechanical energy. There are billions of cells in a heart. Only a small fraction of the energy converted there is needed to power self-sustaining implants, such as pacemakers."

In December 2021, Celtro successfully closed its first financing round with private investors from Germany and the USA. The German state of Saxony is also financially supporting the development project as part of its technology support programme and enabled an early operational start.

The current focus is on semiconductor development in cooperation with Saxon partners. An expansion of the staff in Dresden with experts from the fields of semiconductor development, system development and cell biology is planned for 2022. With the conclusion of the seed financing round, the first phase of the "NanoPower-BioChip" development programme is secured. It will lay the foundation for cellular energy harvesting and demonstrate its feasibility.

"We are very pleased that both private investors and the Free State of Saxony are supporting our pioneering

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