Batteries Made of Sweeteners


The mobile and computer technology, over the years, have evolved in a rapid manner and has given us abundant information and comfort, waiting to be accessed by the tip of our finger. However, the battery technologies that run all these gadgets are a bit slower in the evolution cycle. Today’s best rechargeable lithium batteries gradually lose their abilities to hold charge and become a toxic waste once it is discarded. So, the better solution would be bio-degradable and refillable batteries that also must possess higher energy density.

If somebody says to us that the alternate battery source might be made out of sugar, we would actually laugh at them. But, the researchers at Virginia Tech, USA has found and developed a battery that runs on sugar, which could one day replace the traditional alkaline batteries. In fact, for nearly a decade such sugar bio-battery researches were going on. More than a decade back, in the University of Massachusetts, research were done on bacterial batteries. The researchers used bacteria that feeds on sugar and lives comfortably at 25C. Then, they created a cell that eats sugar and produces electricity.


Y.H. Percival Zhang (right)

The experimental produced by the researchers ran for 25 days without refueling, although the battery’s package was a bit large than the traditional ones. Within this decade, more researches were conducted on creating an artificial metabolism to break-down sugars into energy that is then stored in bio-batteries for later use. The main problem those batteries confronted were low energy densities and slow reaction rates. Later, a US research team tried to solve the problem by building a high-density fuel cell that uses a more efficient pathway of enzymes to generate electricity that could power a smartphone for nearly 10 days.

The Virginia Tech research team led by Y.H. Percival Zhang took this technology to one step further by producing a bio-battery with an energy-storage density of about 596 ampere-hours (A/h) per kg. This is 10 times higher than the energy storage density found in lithium-ion batteries (42 A-h/kg). Percival Zhang proclaimed that the battery is a type enzymatic fuel cell (EFC). It uses an electro-biochemical device which chemical energy from fuels such as starch and glycogen into electricity.


The researchers’ vision is to refill the batteries with sugar when they need refueling, similar to the way we fill printer cartridge with ink or like filling the gas tank of a car. However, Zhang has said that there are still plenty of hurdles to jump before commercializing it. The greatest advantage of such sugar charged bio-battery is that it is less costly than the lithium-ion battery and a perfect renewable power source.

Zhang hopes that this new technology might be powering our electronic device within the next three years. Since our mobile displays are getting bigger with more pixels and more efficient processors, we definitely need such innovative, environment-friendly battery technology that could both satiate the energy hungriness of devices and its consumer.


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