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Soda Could Add a Green Energy Pop to Laptops

saint louis university scientists are developing biobased fuel cells that could use soda pop to power laptopsScientists from Saint Louis University in Missouri are reporting the development of a new class of biobased fuel cells, which could replace disposable batteries and their toxic components. The new biofuel cells could be used to power small electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones, and could be charged by sugar from common sources such as soda pop and vegetable oil.


Conventional batteries, even when rechargeable, have become an enormous logistical issue, not only for consumers but also in terms of providing portable power for military purposes and dealing with supply and disposal issues, especially at remote bases. The U.S. military has already begun to develop biobased fuel cells, so chances are that the consumer market won’t be far behind.

Power from Cells

The research was presented this month at the 240th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, which is a non-profit chartered by the U.S. Congress (it also happens to be the world’s largest scientific society). The team, headed up by Dr. Shelley Minteer, reported that the new biobased fuel cell is the first to be based on  mitochondria, which you might recall from your high school biology class as one of the microscopic organs contained within human cells. Mitochondria are the miniature power-packs that convert food calories into chemical energy that sustains the body. They use pyruvate, a chemical formed when sugar and fats are digested, to manufacture a substance (adenosine triphosphate) that stores energy until needed.

Fuel Cells Based on Mitochondria

Minteer’s team successfully tested a fuel cell consisting of a thin slice of mitochondria between two electrodes. The device produced electricity using sugar, and cooking oil byproducts. If the new technology can be scaled up and developed commercially it will join a growing roster of  biobased fuel cells, which already includes fuel cells based on enzymes orand bacteria.

Image: Soda pop by woody 1778a on

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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