Sweet: Sugar fueled batteries could power your next cellphone

Credit: Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

We all know that sugar is a powerful source of energy for humans and other animals, but how do you translate that energy into electricity that can power an electronic device? Professor Y.H. Percival Zhang at Virginia Tech University says that he has found the answer.

His sugar-fueled battery uses a synthetic enzymatic pathway that strips all of the charge potentials from the sugar, and this allows it to generate electricity as an enzymatic fuel cell. Furthermore, Zhang's battery uses inexpensive biocatalyst enzymes instead of the costly platinum catalysts used in most conventional batteries. This means that his sugar battery is not only cheap to run, but it's also completely biodegradable. The sugar used in Zhang's battery is in the form of maltodextrin, which delivers its energy when combined with air. The main byproduct of the process is harmless water.

Zhang also makes a point that the sugar fuel cell is far safer than a methanol fuel cell which uses a flammable liquid, and it certainly isn't as icky as that pee-powered fuel cell we saw recently. This means that you shouldn't have any trouble getting your fuel cell-powered cellphone past the TSA when you fly.

Best of all, Zhang says that his sugar fuel cell has better energy density than any of those weird alternatives, and even more than some of the other sugar fueled batteries we have seen before. But if that's really the case, then why is Zhang talking only about small devices like cellphones and tablets? Surely, if the sugar fuel cell is as energy efficient as he claims, it might be possible to power an electric car using the stuff. I can see it now, maltodextrin fueling stations right next to the Tesla Superchargers at every Interstate rest area.

Virginia Tech, via Ubergizmo

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