Prof. Michael Mayer
Adolphe Merkle Institute


An Electric Eel-Inspired Origami-Enabled Battery that Generates 100 V


Electrogenic fish such as the electric eel and the torpedo ray generate electric discharges of up to 1 kW to sense and incapacitate prey. Each electrogenic fish contains an array of polarizable cells called the electric organ that can comprise up to 80% of the organismís body; these organs have evolved independently at least six times in natural history. The electric organís discharges are short, on the timescale of single milliseconds; they arise when a complex neural architecture stimulates the opening of Na+ ion channel proteins on the innervated side of each electrocyte cell simultaneously, leading to transcellular potentials that add across a series of cells and an ionic current that scales with the cross-section of the organ.
Here we present a hydrogel-based battery system that mimics the eelís simultaneous generation of many small potentials via electrochemical ion gradients across semipermeable hydrogel membranes. This battery creates an ionically conductive pathway by bringing large arrays of printed hydrogel units into physical contact all at once using stacking and folding geometries with a single degree of mechanical freedom. Printing large and complex gel patterns made it possible to generate voltages exceeding 100 V. Miura-ori folding of 2-D arrays provides self-registered packing into small form factors with improved power characteristics.


Michael Mayer studied Biotechnology at the Technical University in Braunschweig, Germany. He conducted his Ph.D. thesis under the guidance of Horst Vogel at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, followed by postdoctoral research in the group of George M. Whitesides at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. In 2004, he started a tenure-track faculty position in the department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. In fall of 2015, he moved his research group to the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland where he holds the chair of Biophysics.
His research group is interested in processes on biological membranes, including energy conversion, transport and signaling, as well as disease-relevant membrane processes or damage.