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Batteries Sugar battery

Published on January 22nd, 2014 | by James Ayre

14

Sugar Battery With Unmatched Energy Density Created

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January 22nd, 2014 by
 
A new “sugar battery” possessing an “unmatched” energy density has been created by a research team from Virginia Tech. The researchers think that their new battery — which, it bears repeating, runs on sugar — could potentially replace conventional forms of battery technology within only the next couple of years.

The researchers argue that their sugar batteries’ relative affordability, ability to be refilled, and biodegradability, are significant advantages as compared to current battery technologies, and should give it the edge in competition. They are currently aiming for the technology to hit the market sometime within the next few years.

Sugar battery

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” stated researcher YH Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

While sugar batteries aren’t an entirely new concept, they have never been all that viable either — the new technology, though, is different, possessing an “energy density an order of magnitude higher than others,” according to Zhang. Continuing: “Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature. So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

Virginia Tech provides more:

This is one of Zhang’s many successes in the last year that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

“We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade,” Zhang explained. “Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are biodegradable. The battery is also refillable and sugar can be added to it much like filling a printer cartridge with ink.”

The new research was just published in the journal Nature Communications.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Kie

    I don’t see anything about the batteries being rechargeable – non rechargeable batteries are obviously not environmentally friendly in comparison.

  • navigate

    After energy is depleted, can we eated?

    • A Real Libertarian

      The sugar is depleted during use, so…

  • Bob Nikon

    In my previous article I described how important the energy was to our preferred lifestyle. In this article I will lead you to delve down into the sources of energy. The energy that now becomes inseparable part of our lives and how we obtain it has been impacting our way of live.
    There are three major formations of fossil deposits that we obtain from mother nature: Natural gas, Coal and Crude Oil.
    Natural gas is a product of fossil deposits produced by nature which certainly takes a very long time. It is a type of carbon composition being trapped deeply underground. We use natural gas in limited ways comparing with electricity, in fact all functions that are fueled by natural gas can be replaced by electricity.
    Coal is another type of fossil deposits being produced by natural process underground. It is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Electricity is widely used in our way of live. Anything we want to nourish our preferred lifestyle, electricity can make it all happen. Electricity is a man-made product that can be obtained by consuming the fossil deposits such as coal, shale, woods and crude oil. Coal is the most efficient one. We burn these fossil deposits in order to obtain energy in the form of electricity and deliver through the grid. That is how energy will be available wherever it is needed.
    Crude oil is another type of the fossil deposits. It is a carbon composition preserved underground in the form of liquid. It has to be refined so that the machinery can consume. We use crude oil for all types of machinery. It has become the important fuel for our transportation needs.
    Over a century ago we lived on the oil from whales as our energy. At some point of time we came to realize that if we kept killing them for oil. Sooner or later there would be no whales left for the new generations to come. At the mean time we discovered these fossil deposits to replace the oil from whales. They were plentiful and effective but wouldn’t it end up with the same problem? Eventually, there will be nothing left. We have plenty of these fossil deposits in some different forms at the present time, plentiful supply that we can use until some of us may feel not to worry about. But with increasing numbers of population due to:-
    -the multiplication of reproduction on every new generation. Most of us are prone to do so. Reproduction is the most tenacious instinct in all creatures.
    -the advanced technologies in medical science that help fighting against any influenza epidemic that frequently attacks and kills people in large numbers.
    -the new nutritional researches that make people live longer and healthier.
    -the great efforts to study on big accidents like aviation related accidents that kill people in large numbers all at once, in order to prevent them from happening again.
    -the great wars like WW I & II are less likely to break out any more. The new generations start to realize more value of being born as human being. They are prone to settle down calmly over the conflicts that could lead to wars.
    All these factors point to the only one thing which is more population as the time goes by and everyone of us needs energy to live on. It will be a huge mistake if we continue living on our lives not to prepare for this situation. The depletion of fossil deposits may not occur in our generation or a few generations ahead. But it certainly will occur because the rate of replenishment by nature of these resources can not catch up with the rate of our energy consumption due to progressive rate of population growth. There are no arguments against this term. We are living on borrowed time and the clock is ticking. Eventually, we all will have to pay back and it will be painful and expensive. Not to mention about the inauspicious circumstances that are created day by day to augment the effects of global worming on our natural surroundings.
    It has been a very long time since we have learned how energy can enrich our lives and we have striven to obtain the energy from different sources. The sources have been changed from time to time to be benign for environment and more reliable. Despite all the efforts, we have gone on the wrong track time after time. We live on with no plans at all when it comes to energy. It’s time to make a change now folks, once and for all. Because a right choice is now at our disposal. Join me on this fight, it will be a fight to draw solid plans for our certain future and a clean planet to live. Finally, we can have solid plans for all. Go to http://hydro-electrenergy.com and participate in. Watch for my next article about free energy for eternity. I have a solid plan to reveal. We can eventually extricate ourselves completely from carbon footprint.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Very cool…considering that most living creatures rely on this process…it really doesn’t surprise me about the energy density….

  • CapNemo
  • Burnerjack

    Would have been a more valuable article had it included ANY specifics such as actual energy density, longevity of charge/discharge cycle, voltage, current capacity, to name a few. Seems not much more than a sales blurb.

  • Benjamin Nead

    I love reading about stuff like this. There is a more technically fleshed-out overview here . . .

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2014/01/20140121-zhang.html

    . . . and a link to the original article can be found here . . .

    http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140121/ncomms4026/full/ncomms4026.html

    . . . with the option there to purchase the entire study for $35 . . . or the retail price of about 56lb.s of refined white sugar.

    :-)

    • Burnerjack

      Thank you for the link. Great to be able to read the specifics. This could be a truly disruptive technology.

  • jburt56

    Sweet!!

  • andywade

    Don’t worry – I’m sure the powers that be will find a way to ban it, just like they are starting to with solar panels, electric bikes and wind turbines!

    • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

      The powers that be? Don’t think you’re powerless. That’s exactly what they want you to think. To give up hope, surrender, stop fighting.

      Cheer up, the future’s bright. Nobody can stop the revolution. :D

      • wideEyedPupil

        The future of renewable energy is bright without a doubt (hey even the evil Goldman Sachs agree creating an $80B investment fund). But the climate not so much. Things are going from bad to worse with polar warming and emissions continue to rise not deeply fall which is what we need over this decade.

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