Recharging your mobile phone, iPod or any other digital device may just take on a whole new meaning in the future, as researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri have developed a fuel cell battery that runs on just about any source of sugar, be it tree sap, or even soft drinks. What’s more, this fuel cell sugar-powered battery has the potential to operate three to four times longer on a single charge when compared with conventional lithium ion batteries.
This new fuel cell sugar-powered battery is biodegradable and is about the size of a postage stamp. It could well have the potential to replace lithium ion batteries that are used is most of our portable electronic items these days.
In fact, as many might know, using sugar for fuel is no new concept. In fact, sugar in the form of glucose supplies the energy needs of all living things. So, it looks like while nature knew it all along, scientists have only now discovered how to harness the energy-dense power of sugar to produce electricity.
According to study leader, Shelley Minteer, Ph.D, an electrochemist at Saint Louis University, “This study shows that renewable fuels can be directly employed in batteries at room temperature to lead to more energy-efficient battery technology than metal-based approaches. It demonstrates that by bridging biology and chemistry, we can build a better battery that’s also cleaner for the environment.”
Even though a number of other researchers had developed duel cell sugar-powered batteries in the past, Minteer claims that her version is the longest-lasting and most powerful of its type till date. In order to prove her point, she has used a small prototype of the battery to successfully run a handheld calculator.
Minteer says that if the battery that she developed continues to show promise during further tests, it could well be used for commercialization in the next three to five years.
Besides, consumers may not be the only ones to benefit from this discovery. This military is also interested in using the sugar battery to charge portable electronic equipment on the battlefield and in emergency situations where access to electricity is limited. These devices include remote sensors for detecting biological and chemical weapons. Devices could be instantly recharged by adding virtually any convenient sugar source, including plant sap, Minteer says.