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I hadn't thought about the movie "Matrix" when I wrote this question.

From the little I know, I know that humans produce electrical charges to contract muscles and also in other tasks (such as detecting touch, taste, smell, making thoughts in the brain, etc). But these electrical impulses are very weak, small and fast.

I imagine that it is not possible to energize a machine society as in "Matrix", but would it be possible to energize prostheses or at least fill a battery over time? (let's just say, an arm prosthesis or an electronic night vision goggles)

Of course, this would only be possible if these electrical impulses could be connected to wiring, as this tiny electricity produced by the body is made through a chemical reaction that occurs at the cellular level.

If it is possible to extract electricity from the human body in significant amounts, what would I need to do to achieve it? Put literally power outlets in places close to the muscles, backbone and brain?

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    $\begingroup$ How do you mean significant? To achieve what (quantitativly speaking)? Prostheses such as the tip of a little finger's movement, which let's face it is hardly used much - or more along the lines of artificial legs for running marathons. What are the parameters here? Or are you talking about prosthetic senses.... they might need less power. Can you be specific please. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2021 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Draft85 done, sorry for the trouble. $\endgroup$
    – Fulano
    Apr 15, 2021 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ Body powered implants exist, but they are very low energy devices, like cardiac pacemakers. They also don't collect energy from nerve impulses, but use things like body motion to generate power. universityofcalifornia.edu/news/… $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Apr 15, 2021 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ What do you want are not humans but electric eel's $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Apr 15, 2021 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ @NetoAnanias, one is supposed to accept edits which improve a post, not those which add noise. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 15, 2021 at 11:22

2 Answers 2

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From the little I know, I know that humans produce electrical charges to contract muscles

Your premise is wrong.

Electrical pulses in human body do not directly energize muscles, they just carry the signals between the brain and the muscle.

The actual energy source is this molecule, called ATP

ATP molecule

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is an organic compound and hydrotrope that provides energy to drive many processes in living cells, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, condensate dissolution, and chemical synthesis. Found in all known forms of life, ATP is often referred to as the "molecular unit of currency" of intracellular energy transfer.

To give you an example, when a cyclist is producing 300 W peak power, that is not the power coming from electric pulses, but from chemical energy.

To compare it with the power coming from a nerve pulse, consider that it has a potential of few mV and a current of, to be generous, some nA. This gives a power of some pW ($10^{-12})$. Even the nervous pulses of the entire world population taken together won't be enough to supply the cyclist.

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    $\begingroup$ I think what OP is saying is that the electric impulses are energy and whether you could collect this energy. Similar to trying to accumulate the energy in the dry switching high impedance signals of the GPIO on a microcontroller. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 15, 2021 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen I think you're right, but the OP shouldn't watch The Matrix with an un-sceptical eye. L.Dutch's frame challenge is correct. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2021 at 3:47
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YES it is possible to harvest electrical energy from nerve impulses.

NO "significant" would not be a good word to use for the quantity.

"Barely detectable" would be a better description. The electrical component of nerve impulses is only about 55-70 millivolt, and it is a short duration event lasting at most a second or two, followed by a rest period to recharge the membranes generating the potential.

You would get dozens of times more energy from simple movement of the body, and many thousands of times more if you access the body chemistry as a fuel source, the same way that muscles do.

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