Researchers at Virginia Tech are working on a project that could possibly reduce our dependency on lithium-ion batteries. Using sugar as the sole energy source, Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, found that these organic fuel cells have larger energy densities, an “order of magnitude” higher than conventional batteries. It is very hopeful that sugar batteries could become a cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable energy alternative.
A non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway was created by Zhang and his colleagues to strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in the biobatteries. To dramatically reduce the costs of production for these biobatteries, the scientists used low-cost biocatalyst enzymes as catalyst instead of platinum, which has been a common property found in regular batteries. Unlike hydrogen and direct methanol fuels cells, the fuel sugar solution is environmentally-conscious not only in its composition, but also in its non-flammable and non-explosive properties.
“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”
While there is little information on how sugar batteries will hold up to multiple refills, but if Zhang thinks it could be commercialized in three years, that’s a very good sign.
Source, Image: Eurekalert