Biodegradable Sugar-Powered Batteries Could Make Gadgets More Sustainable

posted in: Articles, Blog | 0

Written By: Emma Websdale

A team of U.S. scientists has developed a biodegradable sugar-powered battery that could offer a more sustainable way of powering devices. The new battery stores 10 times the energy of equivalent-sized lithium-ion batteries.

3662268007Developed by a team of researchers from Virginia Tech University, the sugar-powered battery has an energy-storage density of 596 amp-hours per kilo—10 times the energy of equivalent lithium-ion batteries commercially available.

Offering a more sustainable way to power devices the sugar-powered battery has only energy and water as by-products. The battery can also be recharged repeatedly by filling it with a sugar solution and is completely biodegradable. In comparison, power tablets, smartphones and other devices, are not biodegradable and can be harmful to the environment by contributing to ecological toxicity, global warming, and resource depletion. Due to its longer lifespan, the sugar battery has the potential to reduce the number and volume of batteries disposed of each year.

“Sugar is a perfect energy-storage compound in nature”, says chief researcher of the battery, Y.-H Percival Zhang. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

The work, published in the latest issue of Nature Communications, says that, like all fuel cells, the sugar battery cell combines maltodextrin (a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch) with air to generate electricity. With its increased energy output, the sugar battery can also greatly extend the battery life of smartphones, tablets, and electric cars.

“We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly, step-by-step, by using an enzyme cascade”, says Zhang. “Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy-storage density.”

He adds, “The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are biodegradable. The battery is also refillable, and sugar can be added to it much like filling a printer cartridge with ink.”

According to the team at Virginia Tech University, the new technology could be available for commercial use by 2017.