For entire countries to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the bottleneck has long been storage. Battery technology has been lagging behind clean energy development such that a radical switch from the ‘grid’ to clean power was almost impossible. With new developments, like the bio-batteries just created by researchers at Binghamton University SUNY (in the state of New York) – energy could possibly be stored in remote, limited-resource, and even dangerous areas of the planet.
The batteries are stand-alone and self-sustaining and can generate enough power to run biosensors for the medical field, or other forms of energy in multiple disciplines, but the advancement comes in their incredibly small size.
Assistant Professor Sean Choi and PhD candidate Yang Gao placed on one half of a piece of chromatography paper, a ribbon of silver nitrate beneath a thin layer of wax to create a cathode. The team then created a reservoir out of a conductive polymer on the other half of the paper, which acted as the anode. Once properly folded and a few drops of bacteria-filled liquid were added, the microbial cellular respiration powers the battery.
Just like origami, the bacteria-powered battery can be folded in different ways to improve the current and power outputs. The researchers were able to create 44.85 microwatts with six batteries aligned in a parallel configuration 6 X 6 configuration.
Though it would take millions of the bio-batteries to run a simple 40-watt light bulb, the bio-batteries could act as a back-up power source in case of disasters. The technology is also newly developed, and could likely be expanded in order to create more significant power.
Most importantly, the batteries are environmentally friendly.
“Among many flexible and integrative paper-based batteries with a large upside, paper-based microbial fuel cell technology is arguably the most underdeveloped,” said Choi. “We are excited about this because microorganisms can harvest electrical power from any type of biodegradable source, like wastewater, which is readily available. I believe this type of paper biobattery can be a future.”
You might soon just be able to carry around back-up power in a foldable paper-booklet the size of a matchbook. Or if you really wanted to get creative, you could carry your bio-batteries in the shape of a paper crane or a ninja star.
Image credit: SimplyBlissLife.com
The simple manufacturing technique also reduces the fabrication time and cost.
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