Boffin Reveals Folding Battery Powered By Bacteria

Smartphone battery © Pavel Ignatov Shutterstock 2012

Breakthrough design could mean smaller, more powerful batteries than ever before

An engineer from Binghamton University in New York state has developed a clever battery that copies the principles of Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

Seokheun “Sean” Choi developed the cheap folding battery made from paper. What is more, the battery is powered by the bacteria found in dirty water.

Folding Battery

The battery utilises microbial respiration in order to generate enough energy (microwatts) that can run a paper-based biosensor for example, using nothing more that a drop of bacteria-containing liquid.

“Dirty water has a lot of organic matter,” Choi reportedly says in the July edition of the journal Nano Energy. “Any type of organic material can be the source of bacteria for the bacterial metabolism.”

foldingbatteryEssentially, waste water or any bacteria-containing liquid derived from renewable and sustainable water, can be used in the battery to generate energy. The researchers feel this could be a useful solution for people working in remote locations with limited resources. One touted example would be to use the paper battery as the main material for diagnostic tools for the developing world.

“Paper is cheap and it’s biodegradable,” Choi reportedly said. “And we don’t need external pumps or syringes because paper can suck up a solution using capillary force.”

The battery itself can fold down to the size of a box of matches. It makes use of an air-breathing cathode created with nickel sprayed onto one side of ordinary office paper. The anode is screen printed with carbon paints, creating a hydrophilic zone with wax boundaries.

Ongoing Research

Research into battery technology is ongoing all the time. In March 2013 scientists from the University of East Anglia revealed the efficient generation of clean electricity from bacteria with the development of a “bio-battery”. The proteins on the surface of bacteria produced an electrical current by touching a mineral surface.

A more unpleasant sounding development was the battery from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. Scientists there created a microbial fuel cell which is powered by human urine. That battery was able to charge a Samsung smartphone.

Last month iconic watchmaker Swatch revealed that its upcoming wearable technology devices will feature a battery life that should last up to six months. And Israeli startup StoreDot has previously said that its bio-organic battery is capable of charging a smartphone in under 30 seconds.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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