Inspiration comes in many places. This time, it comes in bacteria as scientists discovered they can power a battery which, when done, will be essentially helpful in generating energy for biosensors during emergencies and in remote areas.
Electronic devices are part of our everyday lives. We always have our smartphones with us, computers for work and school, and many other little devices that just make our lives easier.
Additionally, there are also those that are most importantly for emergency and medical use; and most of these things are powered by batteries. That is why having the interest of developing a way to enhance or upgrade them is a no-brainer.
Bacteria Have Some Energy to Give
A battery that generates power from bacteria is developed by scientists from the State University of New York at Binghamton, also known as SUNY Binghamton. This idea came from a previous project by the team of having a matchbook-styled prototype.
An origami design inspired from the Japanese was used by the team to create their foldable and inexpensive paper batteries. It then evolved to more powerful disposable batteries that looked like a ninja star while the previous one can be folded into the shape of a matchbook.
Now, they created bacteria-powered batteries that are still foldable. This time, the batteries are mounted on a single piece of paper that can be stacked together in order to generate varying levels of power.
The Bizzare Yet Wonderful Mechanism
The lead researcher of the study, Seokhun “Sean” Choi says that “microbial fuel cell technology” is among the fields that are least developed. This is in comparison to a lot of “flexible and integrative paper-based batteries” with abundant upsides.
Just like any of the conventional batteries of today, the bacteria-powered battery has both a cathode and anode. The former is the positive terminal while the latter is the negative terminal.
For the battery’s cathode, one sheet of chromatography paper is placed with a slip of silver nitrate under the thin layer of wax. Meanwhile, a conductive polymer is created on the other side that makes a reservoir for the anode.
The microbe’s cellular respiration can generate power once the bacteria-filled liquid reaches the paper. By folding it, the two opposing sides will come in touch to produce electricity.
Portability and Cost-Effective Potentials
Choi says they are thrilled with the invention because the microorganisms can “harvest electrical power from any type of biodegradable source.” This wide variety opens up to many readily available sources like wastewater.
Additionally, its portability from easily being folded and its low-cost requirement give a promising potential. Since it is enough to power devices like biosensors (analytical devices for detecting analyte), it will be useful for both emergency situations and in remote areas.
Moreover, the bacteria-powered battery may be a step, according to Choi, towards a future of papertronics as a power source. Ultimately, the tech is not only beneficial but it also opens more avenues for bigger developments of tomorrow.