Science 2 min read

Researchers Create Paper Battery Powered by Bacteria

Researchers have created a paper battery which, if scalable, would be the solution in science's search for a low cost and environmentally friendly battery.

A team of researchers has invented a paper battery that could be the answer to the world's energy problems. | Image By Vanatchanan | Shutterstock

A team of researchers has invented a paper battery that could be the answer to the world's energy problems. | Image By Vanatchanan | Shutterstock

Cheap and portable paper-based batteries fueled by bacteria could power various sensors and devices in a sustainable way.

Bacteria are such amazing single-celled life forms known for their strong survival instinct that makes some types theoretically indestructible, among many other interesting capabilities.

Some strains, like nightmare bacteria, and other superbugs, could be life-threatening, while others are harmless and can help scientists develop better treatments for HIV and other serious conditions.

Health, the environment, and life origins, are usually the topics that tiny microbes tend to be brought into as a discussion point, but these microorganisms could be useful in electronics as well, specifically papertronics.

Microbial Portable Batteries

Driven by the development of the Internet of Things and miniaturized electronics, paper-based batteries offer a solution for portable, low-cost, and eco-friendly power sources.

Engineers from the State University of New York at Binghamton designed a paper battery using a type of bacteria called exoelectrogens.

Exoelectrogenic bacteria have the specificity of forming a biofilm on the anode surface, that acts as a vector of electrons, as they feed on organic matter available in their environment.

Read More: New Hybrid Aqueous Battery Charges up in Less Than 30 Seconds

Scientists have been looking for various applications to use the ability of these bacteria to transfer electrons outside their cells, like microbial power cells.

In the case of the present novel paper battery, researchers started by “printing thin layers of metals and other materials onto a paper surface. Then, they placed freeze-dried “exoelectrogens” on the paper… The electrons, which are generated when the bacteria make energy for themselves, pass through the cell membrane. They can then make contact with external electrodes and power the battery. To activate the battery, the researchers added water or saliva. Within a couple of minutes, the liquid revived the bacteria, which produced enough electrons to power a light-emitting diode and a calculator.”

Not only will “exoelectrogens” generate electricity to power the paper battery, they will also “recycle” it, as in eat it, at the end of its lifespan.

This single-use paper battery can run for 4 months, but engineers said they’ll be working to enhance both its shelf life and its power output.

The team presented their research at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Do you think this will be a solution to the world’s growing energy crisis and dependence on environmentally dangerous batteries?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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