CHICAGO, March 25 Juicing up your cell phone or iPod may take on a whole new meaning in the future. Researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri have developed a fuel cell battery that runs on virtually any sugar source from soft drinks to tree sap and has the potential to operate three to four times longer on a single charge than conventional lithium ion batteries, they say.
For consumers, that could mean significantly longer time to talk and play music between charges. The new battery, which is also biodegradable, could eventually replace lithium ion batteries in many portable electronic applications, including computers, the scientists say. Their findings were described today at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
This study shows that renewable fuels can be directly employed in batteries at room temperature to lead to more energy-efficient battery technology than metal-based approaches, says study leader Shelley Minteer, Ph.D., an electrochemist at Saint Louis University. It demonstrates that by bridging biology and chemistry, we can build a better battery thats also cleaner for the environment.
Using sugar for fuel is not a new concept: Sugar in the form of glucose supplies the energy needs of all living things. While nature has figured out how to harness this energy efficiently, scientists only recently have learned how to unleash the energy-dense power of sugar to produce electricity, Minteer says.
A few other researchers also have developed fuel cell batteries that run on sugar, but Minteer claims that her version is the longest-lasting and most powerful of its type to date. As proof of concept, she has used a small prototype of the battery (about the size of a postage stamp) to successfully run a handheld calculator. If the battery continues to show promise during further testing and refinement, it could be ready for commercialization in three to five years, she estimates.