Another long-term implication is what this study says about the potential of low-power electronics. The natural battery in the ear doesn't provide much power, which is one of the reasons he said its capability has likely been left untapped since its discovery 60 years ago. That meant the researchers had to develop a device that didn't require much power to function. In an experiment with guinea pigs, the researchers were able to use their “low-power energy harvester chip” (pictured) to power a small radio transmitter without causing any damage to the guinea pigs’ hearing. A major thrust of Mercier's research here at UC San Diego, will be developing electronics that consume "orders of magnitude" lower levels of power. Mercier’s chip consumes approximately 1,000 times less power than a wristwatch, and approximately 1 billion times less power than a cell phone.
This work was published Nov. 8 in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Mercier conducted this study as part of his doctoral research at MIT in collaboration with a team of researchers led by Konstantina Stankovich and Anantha Chandrakasan from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories.