Preserving the Environment

We Can Eliminate Thousands of Pounds of Toxic Waste. All it Takes Is a Little Sugar

January 23, 2014
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We Can Eliminate Thousands of Pounds of Toxic Waste. All it Takes Is a Little Sugar
Researchers have figured out how to make a viable battery using sugar.

A spoonful of sugar may be more powerful than you imagined. Scientists at Virginia Tech have developed a biodegradable, refillable battery made from sugar that has enough energy to power consumer portable electronics. Put into wide use, the innovation could prevent hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic batteries from ending up in landfills.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” said  Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech in a statement. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

The researchers made the fuel cell  using a specially formulated mixture of enzymes that strip the charge potentials from sugar. Then, the researchers use low-cost biocatalyst enzymes — replacing the platinum that is used in conventional batteries — to generate electricity. Though other researchers have looked at the potential for sugar batteries before, this prototype has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than what other researchers have developed, meaning that this battery actually has the power to make consumer electronics work. That sounds pretty sweet.

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