Friday, 28 February 2020

Scientists create paper battery powered by bacteria

LONDON: People living in remote areas or areas with limited resources often have difficulties with electricity, expensive commercial batteries and such. To overcome this problem, researchers have created a new type of paper battery that can easily be powered by bacteria.

The need of new, cheap and portable power sources led scientists to create a new kind of battery that is made out of paper and fueled by bacteria, helping people that have difficulty accessing these everyday items like electrical outlets and batteries, and producing more flexible, sustainable, eco-friendliness, and low cost batteries.

Lead researcher Seokheun Choi said, “Paper has unique advantages as a material for biosensors. It is inexpensive, disposable, flexible and has a high surface area. However, sophisticated sensors require a power supply. Commercial batteries are too wasteful and expensive, and they can’t be integrated into paper substrates. The best solution is a paper-based bio-battery.”

As explained by Science Daily, the paper battery was made by printing thin layers of metals and other materials onto a paper surface. Then the researchers place freeze-dried ‘exoelectrogens’ on the paper, a special type of bacteria that transfers electrons outside their cells. The electrons pass through the cell membrane and make contact with the external electrodes and hence power the battery.

The researchers added water or saliva in order to activate the battery. Within few minutes, the liquid revived the battery that produced sufficient electrons for powering a light-emitting diode and a calculator even in places with no electricity.

The paper battery can be used once before being thrown away and at present has a shelf life of about four months. Choi and his team are now working towards improving the survival and performance of the freeze-dried bacteria for enabling a longer life.

The performance, which is ‘very low’ at present, limits the applications for the battery, “The power performance also needs to be improved by about 1,000-fold for most practical applications,” explained Choi.

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