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Bio-battery cells (left) power the Walkman  (Source: Sony Corp.)
Sony is making a sweet battery technology -- literally

Sugar is a common substance we use to flavor our foods, which our bodies convert into usable energy. Sony must have figured that sugar may also be able to power some of its electronic devices, as the company has announced the development of a battery technology that generates electricity from carbohydrates utilizing enzymes as its catalyst.

The system developed by Sony generates energy from the breakdown of sugars by “immobilizing enzymes and the mediator (electronic conduction materials) while retaining the activity of the enzymes at the anode.”

Sony also said that it developed a new cathode structure which efficiently supplies oxygen to the electrode while ensuring that the appropriate water content is maintained. The careful optimization of the electrolyte for these two technologies has enabled test cells of this bio-battery to achieve power output of 50 mW – which Sony claims is currently the world's highest level for passive batteries of its kind.

The bio-battery cells measure a cubed 39mm with a volume of 40cc and generate enough power to run a Sony Walkman digital music player. It may be a while before such battery technology would be ready for the consumer market, as the current bio-battery cells are larger than the devices they can power.

Researchers elsewhere have also been investigating alternative ways to power electronics. Earlier this month, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute were able to construct a method of turning body heat into electricity using the same principal as thermoelectric generators (TEG) made from semi-conductor elements.



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They are big but
By JasonMick (blog) on 8/31/2007 9:36:00 AM , Rating: 2
This is a really neat technology.

The interesting thing about sugar is that it packs a very high energy density. However, if you were to simply try to release this energy all at once, it would combust, releasing a large amount of heat that would likely give you a nasty burn.

The really tricky part in industrializing these devices will be the enzymes. You need the enzyme to ease the sugar through the number of energy decreases (and some increases)to release its energy more slowly.

However, manufacturing enzymes (proteins) are not cheap enough yet for commercial consumer use. Also, enzymes require a specific aqueous environment or they will fall apart. Another problem is that enzymes degrade over time and would typically not last for years, like you would need for this battery. You would need some means of replenishing them.

Still, the technology benefits from the fact that sugar could easily be produced from synthetic and natural photosynthesis in vast quantities, and it provides simple, clean, and efficient chemical energy. I really hope this technology one day matures to a commercial level, its a great idea.

Billions of years of evolution chose glucose as living organism's primary source of fuel, from many chemical possibilities. Billions of years of evolution are unlikely to be very wrong!




RE: They are big but
By jaybuffet on 8/31/2007 9:47:38 AM , Rating: 2
Or is there a better fuel source for living organism's that would have taken less time to evolve if organisms were based off of it.


RE: They are big but
By JonB on 8/31/2007 10:56:47 AM , Rating: 2
What? You want to postulate a methane lifeform? Acetylene?

Photosynthesis is king on this planet! Long live the Krebs Cycle!


RE: They are big but
By sld on 9/2/2007 3:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
Calvin cycle, C4 cycle and CAM, you mean?


RE: They are big but
By knipfty on 8/31/2007 1:31:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Billions of years of evolution chose glucose as living organism's primary source of fuel, from many chemical possibilities. Billions of years of evolution are unlikely to be very wrong!


Poor anology. Birds fly by flapping their wings, should humans do the same (afterall, billions of years of eveloution can't be wrong).

Also, your brain is the only part of your body that requires glucose. The rest of your body can live quite nicely breaking down fats and protein for energy.

The battery looks like a proof of concept, but will likely never see the light of day.


RE: They are big but
By PAPutzback on 8/31/2007 2:24:11 PM , Rating: 2
FAt perhaps but breaking protein down to glucose is a very inneficient process. 1-4 I think. That is why it works so well in eating more protein than carbs in a diet. And then there is the insulin and glycemic index thingamabob.


RE: They are big but
By sld on 9/2/2007 3:08:36 PM , Rating: 3
Substitute "Billions of years of evolution" with "God" and the dogmatic statement still makes sense!


Kinda cool
By DeepBlue1975 on 8/31/2007 9:33:30 AM , Rating: 2
Instead of a battery pack, we would carry some sugar bags.
Could those possibly be used to sweeten a tea or coffee once they reach EOL? :D




RE: Kinda cool
By Sulphademus on 8/31/2007 9:47:09 AM , Rating: 3
I'm imagining the Pixie Stix refill packs.

Like Homer daydreaming about the alcohol fueled car: "One for you, one for me."


Flammable?
By UNCjigga on 8/31/2007 9:35:11 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously, all I wanna know is how likely these are to catch fire. And in the event that it does, will my VAIO become a sugary baked dessert?




RE: Flammable?
By Kode on 8/31/2007 10:24:19 AM , Rating: 2
who knows, perhaps they'll make everything biologic, and in case it would burn you'd get a nice notebook-cake :)


What does sugar attract?
By johnnyMon on 8/31/2007 1:43:51 PM , Rating: 2
It would be very annoying to find ants constantly crawling over my gear!




RE: What does sugar attract?
By PAPutzback on 8/31/2007 2:20:30 PM , Rating: 2
"Why do you have ant traps in your laptop bag"? My battery leaks.


Hmmmm
By RjBass on 8/31/2007 10:50:26 AM , Rating: 2
"Earlier this month, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute were able to construct a method of turning body heat into electricity using the same principal as thermoelectric generators (TEG) made from semi-conductor elements."

This sounds very similar to the human electric farms from The Matrix.




Money..
By blackseed on 8/31/2007 12:15:54 PM , Rating: 2
No more money in laptop battery market might try out the sugar market.




Two thoughts
By lennylim on 8/31/2007 2:26:13 PM , Rating: 2
1. Should this be called a battery or a fuel cell?

2. There is already something powered by sugar. They're called "kids". And here's an idea about how you harness energy from kids.

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/toys/zen-designs-see-to...




Yeah right
By mindless1 on 8/31/2007 8:43:37 PM , Rating: 2
Like we should be interested in experimental Sony battery tech after seeing what happens with their supposed mature battery tech. This may seem harsh, but I for one don't believe for a moment that Sony wasn't aware of impurities in cells, rather deciding they'd risk consumer safety to save a few batches of their product. This attitude may have been acceptable if like NiMH, those cells just vented without potential to ignite.




By HardwareD00d on 8/31/2007 11:35:18 AM , Rating: 1
I'm working on a new prototype for battery technology that runs off of fart gas.




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