It’s Sunday again, which means it’s time for….
Today’s post is going to focus on biological energy — namely, “Bio Juice”. By using this term I refer to the chemical energy produced by organic tissues that can be converted into heat or directly into electricity.
Our body is an amazing machine. It is capable of miraculous doings that science can only dream of. Even the most sophisticated mega-computers of our day can’t compete with the human brain in many everyday activities, such as social learning or decision-making in conditions of uncertainty. In addition, our body is able to comprehend different forms of energy coming from our surroundings — light, sound waves, mechanical pressure on our skin, food intake, oxygen, and more — and to convert it into other forms of energy, whether chemical, thermal or electrical.
What happens when we digest food? Isn’t it amazing that we are able to convert a tasty chunk of apple into the energy that powers us up? What is the magic this apple holds? Well, nothing special really; it is simply an organic compound, consisting mainly of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. During the process of internal digestion, our body is able to extract the matter it needs for self-construction and also for the production of intra-cellular energy. To put it simply, a large part of the carbohydrates in our food is diverted, following several chemical alterations, into an organelle called Mitochondrion, which extracts from the certain carbohydrates an amount of 30.6 kilojoules per mol (units of energy produced per a certain amount of mass).
There are countless Mitochondria in our body, many of them inside our cells, although these organelles are abundant in the inter-cellular space as well. These Mitochondria have their own DNA, and are believed to be the result of a prehistoric symbiosis with a certain type of prokaryotes (bacteria is one type of a prokaryote). In plain words, we all have billions of bacteria-like “creatures” inside our body which absorb sugar (carbohydrates) and extract energy. Sweet, isn’t it?
The energy produced inside of the Mitochondrion is stored in molecules known as ATP, which then travel around the cell and release their chemical energy in the form of heat. Our car’s engine — mind you — is functioning as a result of heat generated in the combustion tank; and the giant dynamos situated inside a power plant revolve as a result of heat generated via the combustion of coal. However, to operate both the car’s engine and the giant dynamos, we use fossil fuels, since fuel is a relatively pure agglomeration of carbohydrates, and thus it releases high amounts of energy during combustion.
Long story short: Our body is burning up carbohydrates to produce energy, in a similar manner our car is burning up fuel. But while we couldn’t digest fuel, our car can’t operate on apples.
Or can’t it?
Our body is using enzymes and probiotic bacteria inside our stomach to disintegrate the food into manageable molecules. This way, we can extract the sugar from the juice and burn it up inside our Mitochondria. The process is quite feasible — We wouldn’t be here otherwise!
What we can expect to see in the coming years is the development of organic devices, where billions of enzymes could digest our everyday garbage and extract most of its “Bio Juice”. Can you imagine our garbage bin being a digestive tract, connected directly onto the power grid? Can you picture the sewage system directing all its flow into the local power plant? This is indeed extreme recycling.