Sugar-fuelled battery soon to juice up portable electronics

New technology uses any sugar source from soft drinks to tree sap for fuel

Fuel cell technology that is currently in development boasts the ability of extracting energy from virtually any sugar source to power portable electronics like cellular phones, laptops, and sensors. The new technology is expected to be biodegradable, environmentally friendly and more energy efficient than current options, providing a green alternative to current Lithium-ion batteries.

The cell operates at room temperature and uses enzymes to oxidize sugars, hence generating electricity. So far, researchers have run the batteries on glucose, flat soft drinks, sweetened drink mixes and tree sap.

Despite only attaining a maximum of 20 percent efficiency in the conversion of sugar to electricity, researchers say the new batteries will operate three to four times longer on a single charge than current battery technology.

"This study shows that renewable fuels can be directly employed in batteries at room temperature to lead to more energy-efficient battery technology than metal-based approaches," said study leader Shelley Minteer, an electrochemist at Saint Louis University in the U.S.

"Right now we are looking at only partial oxidations, so no more than 20% efficiency, but we are improving as we go along," she said. "Employing sugar as a fuel can lead to three to four times the energy density [of metal-based batteries], which leads to a battery that will operate three to four times longer than current battery technology."

While using sugar for fuel is not a new concept, scientists only recently have learned how to produce electricity from sugar.

Minteer said that her technology is believed to be the longest-lasting and most powerful of its type to date.

One of the first applications envisioned for the sugar fuel cell is a portable cell phone recharger that would contain special cartridges that would be pre-filled with a sugar solution and easily replaced after use. Ultimately, Minteer hopes that the sugar battery can be used as a stand-alone battery replacement in a wide range of portable electronic devices.

"The consumer electronic won't be adapted, but instead a new battery will be developed for the battery compartment," she said. "The only difference [between the new battery and existing technology] will be that the battery will have to contain air holes to allow oxygen into the cell."

Besides being used in consumer electronics, the technology also has potential for use in the military, where sugar batteries could charge equipment in situations where access to electricity is limited. Devices could then be recharged by adding virtually any convenient sugar source, including plant sap, Minteer said.

The technology has been licensed to a small company for commercialisation, and is expected to reach the market in three to five years.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Liz Tay

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?