Researchers harness sugar's 'perfect energy storage' capacity to build battery

The battery has a higher energy density than most other batteries, which means it can run longer before needing to be recharged.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Jan. 21, 2014 at 11:07 AM
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In the not so distant future, you could be using a battery than runs on a sugary solution, is biodegradable and only emits water, potentially solving issues now faced with the disposal of toxic batteries.

This is not the first time a sugar-powered battery has been developed, but researchers at Virginia Tech were able to concoct a solution with a high energy density -- many orders of magnitude higher than previous sugar batteries.

Professor Percival Zhang, who led the research, says the battery will work longer before needing a recharge, while being cheaper and biodegradable.

"Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature," Zhang said. "So it's only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery."

Zhang and his colleagues used a synthetic enzymatic pathway to strip all potential charge from sugar, thereby generating electricity. And instead of using an expensive catalyst like the commonly-used platinum, they used low-cost biocatalyst enzymes. Like fuel cells, the battery combines fuel and air to generate electricity with water as the only byproduct.

"We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade," Zhang said.

Unlike other fuel cells, the sugar solution in neither explosive or flammable and is environment-friendly. Zhang expects to see this battery used in cell phones, tablets, video games and other electronic devices. The findings of the research have been published in the journal Nature.


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