We’ve all heard of the electric eel and know that it has the capability of generating electric shocks. We may not realize it, but these electric shocks are so strong, they can actually kill larger predators. With ongoing efforts worldwide to find natural, sustainable resources for creating energy, is there a way that we can use the electricity created by these fish to power homes? Read on to find out if there is some connection.
The Science Behind Electric Fish
Electric fish, or eels, contain an organ that features disc shaped cells called electrolytes. These cells release sodium and potassium ions that create a positive charge inside the cells and negative ones outside which makes for a sort of static electricity.
When fish feel threatened, it sends electrical signals from the brain to open up this organ which allows these ions to flow freely. This results in an electrolyte with a positive interior and negative exterior from one side and the complete opposite from the other. It works a bit like a biological battery.
When cells are charged up, the fish can use them to disrupt signals, detect other fish and even paralyze prey. Because the process takes place underwater, the shock is even greater than it would be if it was occurring on dry land.
Can We Use This Electricity in a Practical Sense?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Research done in the U.K. reveals that there is a way to generate electricity from swimming fish, although these aren’t necessarily the same ones that emit electricity naturally. This untapped energy is emitted from fish that migrate upstream. Networks of prongs can be installed along a riverbed to capture the energy and allow it to be fed into the National Grid.
Research is still being done but so far, it has been determined that a typical salmon can generate enough electricity to make 18 cups of tea. Research is also working to ensure that these methods of capturing energy will not lead to electrocution of local fisherman.
So, it seems that certain fish generate electricity directly, while others do so in the energy they create. Whatever the case, it is interesting to research possibilities for obtaining electricity through natural sources. Keep updated to find out how these new breakthroughs can lead to a healthier environment and more efficient energy use.