Battery low? Give it some sugar

Written by Brett Thomas

March 28, 2007 | 08:30

Tags: #battery #fuel-cell

A new energy technology that is almost finished with its development phase may make your current battery obsolete. The new hope of the future is a fuel-cell that gets its energy from the same place many gamers do - straight-up sugar. And scientists are hoping it will power a cell phone or laptop near you soon.

The new battery design uses readily available sugar and converts it to electricity. At room temperature, a sugar-cell battery will offer up to four times the lifespan of an equivalently sized Lithium-Ion battery, which is the current industry standard. However, the new battery would be biodegradeable and a fraction of the price. Though this isn't the first time that sugar has been considered for a fuel, it is the first time it's been considered for a viable electricity source.

Of course, the battery does still have some kinks to work out. That four times longer figure is at only 20% efficiency. That means that though the battery could get considerably better, its current design wastes 80% of the energy released. One has to wonder how much of that is in the form of heat. Also, the sugar batteries are far more susceptible to temperature issues, since extreme cold or heat will damage the critical enzymes.

However, even with these current weaknesses, one has to admit that the technology is pretty exciting. Sugar-fueled batteries would be a lot safer both for people and the environment, and with nations like India and China coming into their digital ages, that could be very important. Also, the technology would make batteries, which are one of the most expensive individual parts of an electronic device, much cheaper - a benefit that could show a huge benefit as it makes its way through the industry.

The first use of the fuel cell is actually to function as a recharger for normal Li-Ion batteries in mobile phones and laptops, but the scientists are hopeful that it won't take much to make the move to being the battery rather than charging it. The technology has already been commercially licensed, and is expected to start appearing in the consumer marketplace within three to five years from now.

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