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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 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
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!

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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