The jelly inside a shark's nose is more electrically sensitive than any man made material on Earth

drone kitesurfer great white shark
Elias Levy / Creative Commons
A biological material that has existed for millions of years may find new applications in modern electronics. A team of scientists from UC Santa Cruz, the University of Washington, and the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason discovered that shark “jelly” is the highest proton conductive biological substance ever found, according to GizMag. In plain English, that means the material is extremely good at detecting weak electrical signals from great distances away — something that scientists and engineers believe could be useful in future sensor design.

Sharks, skates, and rays all have the sensitive jelly, which is what allows them to detect the presence of tiny fish from extremely long distances away. The jelly is found in ampullae on the skin. As you may recall from ancient history class, the word ampullae (plural for ampulla) refers to a kind of two-handled flask used in early Roman times to hold sacred oil. Biologically speaking, the word refers to a network of tiny jelly-filled pores that collectively act as a electroreceptor system. These were first discovered in 1678 by Stefano Lorenzini, and have since been called the “ampullae of Lorenzini” or AoL for short (which is amusing in its own right).

Related: Bioluminescent sharks use their glow to communicate in the deep, dark ocean

The jelly inside these AoL is the magic sauce that makes the whole “find-that-fish” system work, because of its high degree of proton conductivity. Proton conductors are substances that can carry an electrical charge. Most are solid, usually made of ceramic material or polymers. The most common application of proton conductors is with small fuel cells, usually made of highly conductive polymers. Now it turns out that shark jelly is only slightly less conductive than polymers designed in the lab.

Perhaps there will be applications for shark jelly in fuel cell design. The potential use of shark jelly in biomedical sensors where slight signal strength changes could indicate brain activity, cell state change, or any number of biomechanical, biochemical, or bioelectrical changes or fluctuations may be even greater.

Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Gaming

Xiaomi’s Gamepad 2.0 turns the Black Shark into a mini Switch

Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi has introduced the Gamepad 2.0 for its Black Shark gaming phone that launched earlier this year. The new gamepad is similar to the Switch Joy-Con, with one piece attaching to each side of the phone.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Product Review

The Nuimo Click’s self-powering control convenience is cool but costly

Smart home devices might be clever, but needing your phone to use them is not. Senic’s Nuimo Click is the set of physical buttons that your smart devices are missing. But these smart, self-powered buttons aren’t cheap.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

Warm ski beanie instantly hardens into a head-protecting helmet upon impact

Wool hats are way more comfortable than hard helmets. You know what they're not? Safer. That could soon change, thanks to an innovative new ski beanie which instantly hardens upon impact.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.