Grand prize winner of Ga. Science & Engineering Fair

Milton student invents medical battery powered by stomach bacteria

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MILTON, Ga. — Mayor Joe Lockwood and Milton City Council members honored 17-year-old inventor Raja Selvakumar at the Nov. 5 city council meeting.

Selvakumar invented a Gastro Microbial Fuel Cell, which uses gastrobacteria, or human stomach bacteria, as a fuel source.

Gastrobacteria breaks down glucose in the stomach to be used for energy throughout the body.

During the breakdown process, glucose disengages electrons, and Selvakumar discovered a way to capture those electrons with a carbon pad, and then turn them into current.

His fuel cell can be used to power capsular nanorobots, used for disease discovery and gastrointestinal surgeries.

Currently, these nanorobots are powered by lithium ion batteries, which cannot sustain power as long as Selvakumar’s fuel cell.

“From a young age, my passion has always been in the science,” Selvakumar said. “It was only natural for me to continue challenging my intellectual curiosity by exploring revolutionary concepts and trying to invent something different.

“Thus, when I was first introduced to microbial fuel cells, I knew that it would develop a whole new world of learning for me.

Selvakumar had read a Scientific American article regarding nanorobots and the potential problems for their implementation caused by energy issues. Selvakumar was challenged to apply himself to create something new in this field.

“That’s where the magic of my project had first begun – the creation of the GMFC.”

The invention earned Selvakumar the grand prize award in the 64th annual Georgia Science and Engineering Fair earlier this year.

He also received a $10,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute.

Popular Science Magazine listed him as one of their PopSci High School Inventors of 2012.

But the invention didn’t come easily for Selvakumar. Lack of lab space initially caused him problems, but he was able to complete his experiment in an Emory University lab.

While the 17-year-old may have invented a technologically advanced medical battery, don’t think he’s all work and no play.

Selvakumar plays the trumpet, and spends his free time on the Milton High School math, academic bowl and debate teams.

He also founded the school’s chess club and is the president of the Milton robotics club.

Selvakumar hopes to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and pursue biomedical engineering or nanotechnology.

As the mayor and city council members honored Selvakumar, he was gracious and humble, and then quietly left the meeting, quite possibly to start another invention.