Re-chargable sugar-based battery outperforms lithium ion, researchers say

Virginia Tech researcher’s bio-battery could be powering tech gadgets within three years.

Comments Off on Re-chargable sugar-based battery outperforms lithium ion, researchers say January 22, 2014
Mike McLeod

Y.H. Percival Zhang (right), an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, and Zhiguang Zhu show off their new sugar battery. (Photo Credit: Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

Y.H. Percival Zhang (right), an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, and Zhiguang Zhu show off their new sugar battery. (Photo Credit: Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an energy density that rivals that of commercially available batteries, they say. Better still, the bio-degradable batteries produce only energy and water as by-products and can be refilled with sugar solution (i.e. recharged) repeatedly.

Virginia Tech associate professor of biological systems engineering, Y.H. Percival Zhang, says the small, enzyme-based fuel cells pack an energy-storage density of 596 Ah kg−1, which is one order of magnitude higher than that of common lithium-ion batteries.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” he said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

According to a Virginia Tech press release, Zhang’s sugar battery is made up of a “synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity.” For fuel, the battery uses maltodextrin – a starch-based polysaccharide – combined with inexpensive enzymes to act as the catalyst, rather than the platinum used in conventional batteries.

If all goes well, Zhang says the new battery could be running cell phones, tablets and other electronic gadgets in as little as three years.
www.vt.edu