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Algae Could Be the Key To Ultra-Thin Batteries

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the green-power-that's-actually-green dept.

Biotech 54

MikeChino writes "Algae is often touted as the next big thing in biofuels, but the slimy stuff could also be the key to paper-thin biodegradable batteries, according to researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden. Uppsala researcher Maria Stromme and her team has found that the smelly algae species that clumps on beaches, known as Cladophora, can also be used to make a type of cellulose that has 100 times the surface area of cellulose found in paper. That means it can hold enough conducting polymers to effectively recharge and hold electricity for long amounts of time. Eventually, the bio batteries could compete with commercial lithium-ion batteries."

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54 comments

green tech (5, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252106)

i wish other industries could make such wild claims and have everyone believe them.

Re:green tech (3, Insightful)

greentshirt (1308037) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252246)

I don't understand why he gets modded troll for this comment, he's right.

I'm tired of reading incredible claims that are just not justified by the science.

When it's done by easy to hate industries like big pharma or big oil, we all jump on it, we should show the sobriety required to do the same when it's from friendlier industries. If anything, these claims hurt the industry by setting up unreal expectations and eventually earning it a reputation of big promises that never deliver.

Re:green tech (4, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252266)

He's modded troll because he is projecting some sort of faith in these press releases on to the rest of us. Reading green tech/energy content is kinda like reading optimistic sci-fi - you know - gee, wouldn't it be nice.

Even if the tech is viable, the IP situation in the Western World dictates a long road from conceptualization to delivery. Simply having a story posted doesn't mean anyone is buying into it... Just means we won't be as surprised as everyone else if it turns out to work.

Re:green tech (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252300)

I dont think he meant everyone as "everyone on slashdot" but everyone as in "everyone in the media and public"

Re:green tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252306)

Stop kidding yourself. You WANT to believe.

Oh, and,

you don't need to see his identification...

Re:green tech (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252586)

Even if the tech is viable, the IP situation in the Western World dictates a long road from conceptualization to delivery. Simply having a story posted doesn't mean anyone is buying into it... Just means we won't be as surprised as everyone else if it turns out to work.

So... Just like every other technology-related article on Slashdot?

Re:green tech (1)

tech_freak'n_stuff (1512491) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253558)

He's modded troll because he is projecting some sort of faith in these press releases on to the rest of us. Reading green tech/energy content is kinda like reading optimistic sci-fi - you know - gee, wouldn't it be nice.

Even if the tech is viable, the IP situation in the Western World dictates a long road from conceptualization to delivery. Simply having a story posted doesn't mean anyone is buying into it... Just means we won't be as surprised as everyone else if it turns out to work.

actually, if people in governments or the public domain who follow the environmentalist movement would jump on this idea if it was saw on a large scale in international news channels.

Re:green tech (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253274)

I don't get the troll mod either. The GP is, however, wrong in thinking that other industries don't get to make such wild claims and have people believe them. Take, for example, the fast food industry. The claim they make is on all those billboards showing a delicious, luscious burger and fries. The reality is quite different. Or the politician industry whose members make incredible claims, which people seem to actually believe, and then deliver something quite different altogether. And of course there is the operating system industry....

Re:green tech (1)

phobafiliac (704426) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255310)

I agree with your post for the most part, but the bit about the fast food industry making false claims with their billboards is a bit a of a stretch, At one point in my life I worked in fast food and I can tell you it is entirely possible to make the food look as good as the menu pictures and advertisements. It all depends on who is cooking. I for one made the food look like the pictures (it wasn't that difficult). What separates fast food from, say, politicians is that highschool kids don't care what they are doing. Politicians tend to tell out right lies.

Re:green tech (0, Troll)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253718)

The thing is though, I don't know any company, let alone a university research lab, that's making outrageous claims about what could be achieved today. It's always at least 10 years down the road.

Now excuse me, I've got to go read up on all the the groundbreaking work being done on space elevators. I think there's something that can climb a nylon rope 10 feet now. What a wonderful time to be alive!

Re:green tech (1)

Alpha Soixante-Neuf (813971) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255402)

It seems to me that apart from the headline the only objectionable sentence is this:

The key to this new battery turned out to be an often bothersome green algae known as Cladophora.

The rest of TFA is speculative and, to my mind anyway, worth the 30 seconds it took to read. Without this one definitive sentence claiming this as more than a new thread to follow, it's just a piece about a potential new avenue into cellulose batteries.

While I definitely agree that bold claims do hurt their industries with unreal expectations, I know I usually am more forgiving than I would be to large industries like pharma or oil. It's not a fair or educated position, but I often attribute that kind of overzealousness in these articles to optimism and enthusiasm, whereas if it's a press release from a huge corp. I see it as manipulative and marketed. That's probably an unfair ideological position and I try to stay aware that I have that bias, but I don't feel I'm totally out to lunch feeling that way in general.

I always appreciate it when people point out these discrepancies, but I think there is a legitimate reason why it occurs. We should make note where it happens, but I don't feel like getting angry at the people who may have overstated how far along they are in achieving some of these goals. If it takes an outlook that makes them feel they're closer than they are to keep plugging away so they, or the scientists after them finally do make a breakthrough, I'm more than willing to tolerate the fact they tend to minimize the difficulties between where they currently are and where they claim they are heading.

Re:green tech (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252598)

If you mod me down, I will become more powerful than you can imagine....
Loser!

Re:green tech (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252674)

Want ot know how to tell if a green tech is just hype? Go ask a greenie if they approve of the concept. If they say yes, odds are it's crap. If they scream franken-NIMBY until your ears bleed, buy stock.

Re:green tech (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252750)

MRAM, "Spintronics" and Quantum Computers, Inkjet-printable circuit boards, anything involving carbon nanotubes...

"Green tech" is hardly the only industry guilty of making wild claims.

But hey, why not take the opportunity to take a pot shot as those pesky environmentalists, eh? If anything, it's always worth a few modpoints here on Slashdot...

Re:green tech (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252828)

fail. carbon nanotubes and printable circuit boards have atleast been produced in a lab. they aren't far fetched at all, and they aren't constantly claiming they will "save the world".

Re:green tech (2)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252858)

Yeah, bullshit, buddy. Nanotubes are touted as next generation batteries, circuit boards, solar cells, bullet proof armor, space elevator cables, and god knows what else. They're practically a magical panacea if you believe researchers.

As for printable circuit boards, yup, you got me there. They're manufactured in the lab... kinda like algae-based power sources.

Re:green tech (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254770)

It's almost as if scientists are pressured by universities to make long-term claims in understandable language, rather than precise short-term claims in technical language. Kind of like it is part of their mission to promote public understanding of science, and one of the criteria they are considered on when funding is allocated.

But if you have an axe to grind against "green tech" then go ahead and pretend it is unique to science with environmental impact.

Re:green tech (3, Insightful)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254820)

It's usually not the industry/scientists' fault. It's the science journalists. They're the ones who take good research that's making cautiously optimistic projections for the possibilities of new technologies and turn it into "Scientists say they invented new technology that will abrogate our responsibilities!"

Key word... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252186)

"Eventually". And that assumes that it's economically feasible, of course.

Re:Key word... (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253372)

"Eventually" in a scientific/Academic context means "You cant prove its imposssible, and I am looking for funding"

Linguistically, it means "after the current conditions have changed beyond all recognition, and most probably after I am dead and cant be blamed for getting it wrong". It does not mean "technically feasible in the near future" in any context what ever. It is a term used to imply that this is not news, and can safely be ignored here.

BSG (3, Funny)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252256)

Sweet! So that means when we find the Algae Planet, it'll solve our food AND fuel problems! Why steal Tylium from the Cylons when you've got algae?

Re:BSG (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252462)

I was thinking next we'll be hearing about biogenic weapons made from algae. When will it end?!?

Re:BSG (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253684)

lots of surface area means it'd burn quickly, if it's made of a substance that'll burn in the first place. it's algae... i think it will. flamethrower fuel or new type of fire bomb? soak it in some kind of oxidizer, and you'll have quite a flash fire.

Re:BSG (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254636)

Cladophora grows in my garden pond and it pretty amazing actually (once you get past the annoying as hell part [wikipedia.org]), once it sticks to something and dries that's it it almost impossible to get off and strong as hell. Thinking along your lines, I'd go with Solid Rocket motors. I've always thought it might make a really interesting paper.

Re:BSG (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252486)

...can also be used to make a type of cellulose that has 100 times the surface area of cellulose found in paper. Not to mention the super-absorbent toilet paper we could make.

Re:BSG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30255536)

We have already found the algae planet. It's Earth. Next to bacteria, algae is the most ubiquitous organism on Earth.

i shit on stephenie meyer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252386)

that shit is for the same kind of low lifes that like shit like star wars.

fucking second rate shit eaters.

Smell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252390)

What the hell do you mean "smelly algae"? If you've ever smelled a car battery you should know better than to criticize algae.

Re:Smell? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252532)

Cocaine is a hell of a drug. -Rick James

Does anyone remember this? (2, Interesting)

Mortaegus (1688452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252482)

A few years back I remember hearing about a bacteria that was being breed to produce electricity. It ate really nutrient-rich mucky dirt and produced electricity, and the structure of the bacteria was similar to a nerve cell branching out to other cells and carrying the current. They were trying to make a battery out of it. But for the life of me I could only find stubs of articles on it, and nothing that said anything about viability or even gave a measure of what has been achieved. Anyone else heard about that work? Wonder if the conductivity of these bacteria would be genetically added to the battery bacteria to improve the flow of electricity? Maybe the projects should be married.

Re:Does anyone remember this? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252506)

Did you flunk Conspiracy 101? It was suppressed by Big Oil (TM) - just like this current one will be.

Re:Does anyone remember this? (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252630)

Geobacter [wikipedia.org] Is capable of doing precisely what you describe. The bacterium extends electrode like pili into its environment and degrading various materials ranging from hydrocarbons to Uranium salts. However, Geobacter creates an electrical current in a very different way than these algae batteries would. The algae battery looks like it uses the cellulose as a supportive structure in rather than using biological processes to generate an electrical potential.

Next step, the Matrix (1)

hcg50a (690062) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252796)

This sounds like the first step in human batteries, ala The Matrix.

Re:Next step, the Matrix (1)

paul248 (536459) | more than 4 years ago | (#30252982)

Don't even bother trying to find a connection between reality and The Matrix. The machines already had fusion power.

Re:Next step, the Matrix (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253294)

Not to mention that "The Matrix" human batteries would run afoul of the laws of thermodynamics - you simply could not make a human being generate more electrical energy than it takes to keep them alive.

Re:Next step, the Matrix (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253380)

And of course the machines would just have had to send solar power stations into space to get as much solar energy as they want, even with a darkened sky. Not that whatever they used to darken the sky would have remained in the atmosphere for very long time. And even if there's no way to harness solar power any more, there's still geothermal energy.

Of course only very stupid humans would block all sunlight from Earth. Because unlike machines, our energy ultimately comes to 100% from the sun. Not to forget the oxygen we are breathing.

Re:Next step, the Matrix (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254114)

The humans were originally meant to be the compute nodes upon which the matrix ran, but that plotline was deemed to be too complicated and metaphysical for mainstream audiences, plus it didn't provide an opportunity to milk some product placement dollars out of Duracell.

capitalize genus group names (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30252870)

Cladophora.

Could be (3, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253110)

Well, anything could be the key to ultra-thin batteries. Wake me up when you find the thing that is the key...

Not really a battery (3, Informative)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253230)

The device they came up with is more like a supercapacitor, but it still pretty good.
I believe that the real breakthrough in electrochemical energy storage technology will not be in greater energy density from new materials, but in cheaper alternatives from organic systems.
When their performance degrades too much we can safely toss them, make compost and start over.

A couple of examples:

http://gcep.stanford.edu/pdfs/Y0NOS1cDbWD509Q0m5Reyw/Symposium2009Poster_Joaquin_Geng.pdf [stanford.edu]
http://www.nec.co.jp/techrep/en/r_and_d/a05/a05-no3/a262.pdf [nec.co.jp]

Disclaimer: I work in battery research so I firmly believe that batteries, and not fuel cells, will save us. So don't even go there.

Re:Not really a battery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30261080)

Are you suggesting Jesus is coming back with a 'copper-top'? Sweet! We redheads will finally get some respect!

=] I am making with the jokes - not trying to religion-troll =]

Yeah, so the paper is biodegradable. (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30253854)

But what about the polymers that they are coated in??

Re:Yeah, so the paper is biodegradable. (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254696)

Cellulose is a polymer, Protein is a polymer, discussing something and using chemical nomenclature to decribe the chemicals doesn't automatically make then Evil(TM); at least they aren't using dihydrogen monoxide!

just wait.... (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30254080)

they will spend billions developing this tech, then they wont be allowed to use it because charging the batteries would be torture to a living creature. PETA will have a field day.

Re:just wait.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30254910)

Shut up with all that anti-PETA crap. It's getting old.

Re:just wait.... (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255186)

it never gets old making fun of idiots. btw, im an animal lover, but im not a psyco moron.

"..could eventually.." (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30255544)

I also suppose "eventually" is 10 years out? Where have we heard this before? Oh, that's right, we've heard this everywhere before! Clean cheap cold fusion reactors are 10 years away. Self-aware AI is 10 years away. Mass-produced flying cars are 10 years away. Room-temperature superconductors are 10 years away.
If I was smart I'd've filed for a patent on the idea of claiming a new technology was "just 10 years away", then neither I nor the next 7 generations of my descendants would ever have to work!

Cool! I'll use them to power my... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30259120)

...flying car.

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