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Nothing is sweeter than biodegradable sugar powered batteries

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In the modern world we live in, we constantly use energy to aid us with every day activities; such as charging phones, driving cars, etc. Though, the energy we are using is constantly running out; in other words, it is limited. Also, the current energy sources we are using are polluting our world with greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. Therefore recently, we have been using alternative energy sources that are environmentally beneficial such as solar power.

A common energy source we are using today, is lithium-ion batteries. Though, as we know, they are considered toxic waste after losing their ability to charge certain devices such as remotes or phones. However, scientists have been developing a bio-battery that runs on sugar. More specifically, “a bio-battery is known as a device in which the substrate material, organic or inorganic is converted into electrical energy.” (Narayan, 2013). This bio-battery – unlike the lithium-ion battery – is biodegradable which means, after being used it is decomposed by bacteria, thus causing no pollution. Another problem solved by this bio-battery is that they are much cheaper, yet much more powerful in terms of energy.

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Though, the concept of producing this bio-battery is complex. Just like any chemical battery, the bio-battery has three components; an anode (Vitamin K3), a cathode (Potassium ferricyanide), and a separator – which is a semi-permeable membrane made up of a substance called cellophane, which makes up the separator, the last component. As seen in Figure 1 (Narayan, 2013), the process is similar to that of respiration, the glucose/sugar is broken down by enzymes to produce energy. The process (shown more clearly in Figure 2 [Sony, 2007]) starts with glucose being broken down by the immobile anode enzymes where a reaction occurs (Glucose ->Gluconolacctone + 2 H+ + 2 e- ) thus causing hydrogen ions as well as electrons to be produced. Afterwards, the hydrogen ions and electrons pass into the cathode through the separator, and as a result they absorb the oxygen in the cathode causing a redox reaction ([1/2] O2 + 2 H+ + 2 e- -> H2O). Finally, the electrons pass through the outer circuit, thus producing electricity.

Sugar bio-batteries have many advantages relating to factors such as environmental and financial/economic factors. For one, the battery is refillable; moreover, it is easily refillable, you could use soda water, carbonated drinks, or basically anything containing glucose. Additionally, the battery is really safe, and unlike lithium-ion batteries it doesn’t have the tendency to explode. As mentioned previously, the bio-batteries are environmentally beneficial and do not cause any pollution in contrast to the lithium-ion batteries. Another advantage is that bio-batteries are “…over 10 times more powerful than today’s top efficiency…”(Lane, 2015). As seen in Figure 3 (Zhu, 2014), lithium-ion batteries’energy density is at about 150 Wh/kg-1, while glucose bio-batteries’energy density is a little over 2000 Wh/kg-1, proving that sugar bio-batteries can store much more energy than lithium-ion batteries, one of the top most used batteries worldwide.

Unfortunately, in spite of all the advantages, there are a few disadvantages as well. As mentioned previously, this bio-battery can be refilled, though it is unknown how many times this battery can be refilled before it goes to waste. Furthermore, another disadvantage is that this bio-battery is still under development, which is why it hasn’t hit stores yet – his concept/device is under a decade old. Additionally, extracting the energy from the glucose/sugar (shown in Figures 1 and 2) is both difficult and complicated. Another disadvantage is that since the anodes and cathodes are immobile, “…it has historically proven very hard to find the right pathway for maximum efficiency and to keep the enzymes in the right place over a long period of time…”(Anthony, 2014) which means the electricity generation process wouldn’t always be efficient.

The bio-battery definitely affects the environmental factor in a beneficial way, as it contributes to helping the world become a ‘greener’place. As mentioned previously, these bio-batteries do not leak, nor cause explosions; this is extremely beneficial as recently smartphones have been exploding after refilling the lithium-ion batteries. As stated, these bio-batteries are biodegradable which means they are easily decomposed, thus preventing pollution. Lastly, the manufacturing process does not produce any toxic waste, though it produces water and oxygen.

The bio-battery is still in development, with many scientists and engineers improving the battery every single day. Figure 4 (CFDRC, 2013) shows the bi-annual improvement of the bio-battery and it is progressing greatly as of now. One of the leading scientists working on developing the bio-battery, Y.H. Percival Zhang has announced that in as little as three years, the bio-batteries will start powering electronic devices. Additionally, Sony – also working on developing the sugar bio-battery – has stated that the company is now working with several car manufacturers to start using these sugar bio-batteries to power/fuel electric cars.

In conclusion, the sugar bio-batteries are our pathway to the future, with many advantages in terms of environmental and financial factors and very few disadvantages that could easily be counteracted throughout the development stages. Fortunately, we’ll be using those bio-batteries very soon!

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