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Powering Phones, PCs Using Sugar

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the skynet-will-be-a-hungry-boy dept.

Power 199

Nerval's Lobster writes "A team of researchers at Virginia Tech University have developed a battery with energy density an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries, while being almost endlessly rechargeable and biodegradable as well – because it's made of sugar. The battery is an enzymatic biofuel fuel cell – a type of fuel cell that uses a catalyst to strip molecules from molecules of a fuel material. Instead of using platinum or nickel for catalysts, however, biofuel cells use the catalysts made from enzymes similar to those used to break down and digest food in the body. Sugar is a good fuel material because it is energy dense, easy to obtain and transport, and so simple to biodegrade that almost anything biological can eat it. Sugar-based fuel cells aren't new, but existing designs use only a small number of enzymes that don't oxidize the sugar completely, meaning the resulting battery can hold only small amounts of energy that it releases slowly. A new design that uses 13 enzymes that can circulate freely to get better access to sugar molecules, however, is able to store energy at a density of 596 amp-hours per kilogram – an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries, according to Y.H. Percival Zhang, who studies biological systems engineering at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. "Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature," Zhang said in a statement announcing publication in Nature Communications of his paper describing the battery. "So it's only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.""

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199 comments

Amp hours per kilogram (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073751)

Is not a unit of energy density, right?

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46073755)

Well, Amp hours directly convert to coulombs. I x T.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073829)

No it does not.

Re: Amp hours per kilogram (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074171)

With a constant, it does.

1 Amp = 1 Coulomb per second

1 Amp * second = Coulomb

1 Amp * hour = 3600 Coulombs

Re: Amp hours per kilogram (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46075085)

This still isn't energy, though. Current must flow across a potential difference to do to work.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073867)

Oops never mind I was thinking joule, sorry.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 6 months ago | (#46073985)

Scientists measure energy in joules, economists and (for most purposes) the everyday public in watt-hours. For reasons of practicality: Watt-hours make calculating bills easier.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (2)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46074721)

Now if the voltage was specified, we might manage to convert amp-hours into energy. Otherwise there is little point in giving a figure at all.

Perhaps the full article mentions that somewhere but there's no way I'm paying $35 just to find out.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 6 months ago | (#46073883)

Correct. That's not energy density. They need to state it in Watt hours per kilogram, or state the voltage they are assuming.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (0)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 months ago | (#46074173)

The voltage is immaterial. The energy density stage same regardless of the voltage, since amp-hours s au it of charge, indent of how much current or voltage is actually used. If you hold voltage and current constant, you can always do more work with more charge, so charge/kg is a reasonable representation of energy density.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (3, Interesting)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 6 months ago | (#46074305)

The voltage is immaterial. The energy density stage same regardless of the voltage, since amp-hours s au it of charge, indent of how much current or voltage is actually used. If you hold voltage and current constant, you can always do more work with more charge, so charge/kg is a reasonable representation of energy density.

You're talking about comparing across battery types, then your statement holds only when voltage is the same. Also, for EVs the only metric that really matters is energy per volume. kWh-hrs (or MJ) per liter, eg. Energy per mass isn't a constraint. Show me a significant boost in this metric, including the size of the "sugar sack" needed to go 120 miles, then we'll talk.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (4, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 6 months ago | (#46074311)

I'm not sure where your thinking process is broken, but I'll give it a try.

Amp-hours isn't a statement of energy. For example, you could have 2 '5 amp-hour' batteries, but because one is 12V and the other 6V, the amount of energy each contains is very different, with the 12V one being able to supply twice as much energy before becoming exhausted. Because this is a new battery technology, we don't know what the voltage of the battery is.

Watts are a statement of power, Joules are a statement of energy, or power over time. Amps are mostly a statement of volume of electron flow. Without knowing the force behind them(voltage), you can't say how much work you can do with them.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 months ago | (#46074439)

I never said it was a measurement of energy. I said it was a unit of charge. With more charge, you can do more work. It is as valid a gauge of how much work you can do as knowing how full your gas tank is tells you how far you can get without refueling

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 6 months ago | (#46074605)

With more charge, you can do more work. It is as valid a gauge of how much work you can do as knowing how full your gas tank is tells you how far you can get without refueling

Yes, but only in the context of you knowing how many gallons your gas tank can hold and what your average mpg is. Half a tank on my motorcycle is 100 miles if I'm lucky. My car, 150, my truck 200.

We were told the mpg; not the size of the tank.

Power is the rate at which we can do work, Energy is how much work we can do. We were given neither for the battery.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074791)

Volt = Joule/Coulomb

Work: Joule = Volt * Coulomb

The work is done as the charge moves across a potential difference. You need to know what the potential difference is, in addition to the charge, to know how much work that total charge can do.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46074801)

So half a tank of gas is the same as half a tank of water?

Re:Amp hours per kilogram - still meaningless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074883)

I never said it was a measurement of energy. I said it was a unit of charge. With more charge, you can do more work. It is as valid a gauge of how much work you can do as knowing how full your gas tank is tells you how far you can get without refueling

Bullshit! Others have already proved you input-proof, but what the Hell, I'll give it a shot.

Knowing how full your gas tank is does not tell you "how far you can go" unless you know how many miles you get per gallon (or equivalently, how many miles you get from a full tank.) Likewise, what kick do you get from each electron? Amps are not a unit of work or power - any electrical source can be transformed down to a lower voltage to produce more amperage, or transformed up to produce less amperage, but the power delivered does not change exclusive of transformation losses. Comparing battery amp-hrs is meaningless except for batteries of the same voltage.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram - still meaningless (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 months ago | (#46075093)

Charge is as much a measurement of quantity of electricity as volume is a measurements of a quantity of matter. The more coulombs of charge you have to pump through a wire, the more electricity you will have used, and the more work you will be able to do with it.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46074769)

No. If the old battery does 5A-hr at 5 volts, mine beats it by and order of magnitude providing 0.05A-hr at 5000V.

So voltage is immaterial at a constant voltage, but different battery formulations typically have a different voltage. Neither TFS nor TFA claim that voltage is constant.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

curunir (98273) | about 6 months ago | (#46074127)

And it even if they had the energy part right, it wouldn't be the most useful measure of energy density where batteries are concerned. When it comes to batteries, energy per kilogram is a less useful measure than energy per liter. For example, Hydrogen has a very high MJ/KG but a comparatively lower MJ/L. Batteries made with heavier metals will likely still store energy more efficiently into a small space than a biofuel cell like the one in the story.

Most of the applications of batteries require fitting as much energy possible into a confined space rather than fitting as much energy possible into a small amount of mass.

Re:Amp hours per kilogram (1)

Salgat (1098063) | about 6 months ago | (#46074473)

No, unless we somehow also know the voltage of the battery. Assuming it's 1.3V like a phone battery, then it tells us the energy density.

Cue the Archies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073757)

"Sugar Sugar", one of the catchiest songs of the '60s. There's your radio spot right there.

sweet! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073761)

Sweet!

A start (2)

Ignacio (1465) | about 6 months ago | (#46073791)

Maltodextrin/glucose is a start, but wake me up when it can use sucrose.

Re:A start (4, Funny)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about 6 months ago | (#46074183)

...but wake me up when it can use sucrose.

Why do you hate America? It needs to use corn syrup.

Re:A start (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074277)

More importantly if it use corn syrup, which makes people fat, corn syrup will become more expensive and low-budget food will switch to something healthier.

Re:A start (2)

Ignacio (1465) | about 6 months ago | (#46074875)

Why do you hate America?

Because I'm not American?

Sugar... (1)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 6 months ago | (#46073807)

Oh... honey, honey.

There, get that song out of your head. :P

Re:Sugar... (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 6 months ago | (#46074547)

Where's the "-1 Earworm" option?

A free market solution (3, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 6 months ago | (#46073809)

So the free market will do what New York couldn't with taxes...drive the price of junk food up! Sweet.

no sugar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074049)

As if the Americans actually use sugar in their fast food. High fructose corn syrup backed by sweet government subsidy to corn producers is all you get.

anp hours (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073813)

Watt hours would be more helpful. Amp hours are meaningless without associated volts.

Re:anp hours (1)

Teun (17872) | about 6 months ago | (#46073955)

Yet it is the way we express the capacity of batteries...

Re:anp hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074055)

Yet it is the way we express the capacity of batteries...

That is for historical reasons. When battery driven appliances used linear regulators the current consumption was constant regardless of battery voltage.
Today pretty much everything is switched and battery driven appliances will generally consume a constant power rather than a constant current.
It would be better if batteries had double markings for a while so that we can migrate to a power*time-notation and mark battery driven tools with power consumption rather than current consumption.

Re:anp hours (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 6 months ago | (#46074057)

Problem is it's meaningless if you don't know the potential developed from the chemistry.

Re:anp hours (1)

Megol (3135005) | about 6 months ago | (#46074245)

Not without knowing the voltage?!? Often the voltage is implicit - like when comparing cells of the same chemistry but e.g. looking at notebook batteries* 5400mAh at 7.2V or 11.1V makes a huge difference in run time.

(* It's true - notebook batteries used to be replacable and sometimes had different voltages!!)

Re:anp hours (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46074827)

Only when comparing batteries that operate at the same voltage.

The power density is terrible (sigh) (4, Informative)

cryptoengineer2 (3469925) | about 6 months ago | (#46073973)

The linked abstract indicates around 0.25 mW/cm^2 (electron exchange membrane area). I'm not in any way a fuel cell expert, but that seems kind of low. Other fuel cells get from 0.2 to 2 Watts (not mW) /cm^2. Sure, sugar has a high energy density, and this project uses it efficiently. But the batteries would be huge, to get reasonable power.

Re:anp hours (0)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 months ago | (#46074257)

An amp hour is a unit of charge, equal to 3600 coulombs, and is immaterial to current or voltage used. With more charge you can do more work, so charge/mass is perfectly reasonable to represent energy density.

Re:anp hours (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 6 months ago | (#46074469)

The abstract gives power & amperage figures per cm^2. But since both are "per cm^2" (same units), just divide to get volts. See above.

It seems rather low... on the order of 0.13V. But if the cells themselves are not of heavy construction, nothing says you can't make stacks of cells in series.

Re:anp hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074411)

>Watt hours would be more helpful. Amp hours are meaningless without associated volts.

Aren't /.ers supposed to be technically knowledgeable? From the abstract:
"This enzymatic fuel cell is based on non-immobilized enzymes that exhibit a maximum power output of 0.8mW/ sq. cm and a maximum current density of 6mA/ sq. cm"

P=IV, so the maximum it could be would be 2/15 V.

Re:amp hours (FTFY) (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 6 months ago | (#46074445)

0.8mW/cm^2 / 6mA/cm^2 = 0.1333... volts

Corn batteries? (4, Insightful)

Ecuador (740021) | about 6 months ago | (#46073831)

If this thing takes off, I can imagine in a few years the highly subsidized corn industry trying to sell high concentration fructose batteries, marketing them as "corn sugar fuel cells".

Re:Corn batteries? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 6 months ago | (#46074063)

If this thing takes off, I can imagine in a few years the highly subsidized corn industry trying to sell high concentration fructose batteries, marketing them as "corn sugar fuel cells".

Corn syrup is a complex chemical mixture of sugars, including maltose, fructose, and various oligosaccharides. If you dumped it directly into an enzyme battery, you would likely clog up the battery with partially digested sludge.

Re:Corn batteries? (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#46074107)

Corn syrup is a complex chemical mixture of sugars, including maltose, fructose, and various oligosaccharides.

That's true, with varying proportions, of just about any natural plant syrup, whether processed from sugar beets, corn, sugar cane, grapes, pears, whatever. If you want a chemically "pure" sugar, such as only fructose, or only glucose, and you don't want other impurities such as colors and such, you need to separate and purify it, which produces what's known as "refined sugar".

Re:Corn batteries? (1)

Mashdar (876825) | about 6 months ago | (#46074203)

They'll have to mash the corn with some A/B amylase and limit dextrinase!
I'll drink to that!

Re:Corn batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074247)

If this thing takes off, I can imagine in a few years the highly subsidized corn industry trying to sell high concentration fructose batteries, marketing them as "corn sugar fuel cells".

Corn syrup is a complex chemical mixture of sugars, including maltose, fructose, and various oligosaccharides. If you dumped it directly into an enzyme battery, you would likely clog up the battery with partially digested sludge.

And that's the reason stay away from corn syrup for your diet.

Bad, bad technology, go to your room! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073835)

We already know that using ethanol is a big resource wasing flop, where do you think the ethanol comes from? Yeast and sugar. Going one step up isn't going to help, it will still take massive amounts of corn some other plant to give you the sugar. It doesn't matter how many joules you can get out of your fuel if the fuel production is horribly wastefull.

Re:Bad, bad technology, go to your room! (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 6 months ago | (#46074005)

We already know that using ethanol is a big resource wasing flop

It is only resource wasting when made from corn. Ethanol from sugar cane is very sensible. But America has high tariffs on cane sugar, and the ethanol derived from it, to keep it from competing with corn. We will not have a sensible bio-fuels policy until the first presidential caucuses are moved out of Iowa.

MY COMMENT HAS A TITLE NOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074109)

Ah, but perhaps it is still a more viable production chain than however we make regular batteries.

avoids distillation (2)

Mspangler (770054) | about 6 months ago | (#46074243)

"We already know that using ethanol is a big resource wasing flop, where do you think the ethanol comes from? Yeast and sugar. Going one step up isn't going to help,"

The energy cost of distillation would be avoided with a corn syrup fuel cell. That's worth quite a bit economically.

DIY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073839)

Anyone have a decent DIY design ?

I eagerly await... (2)

arpad1 (458649) | about 6 months ago | (#46073843)

...the first commercial example. Until then I'll forget about this annoucement since a laboratory curiosity can take a long time to wind its way to commerical production if it ever makes it that far.

Re:I eagerly await... (4, Interesting)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 6 months ago | (#46074095)

Never going to happen.

Stuff like this has been done before - and it always sounds good - but they're burying the lead.

Enzymes degrade. They're just made of amino acids - they're not long term structures. It's why our bodies cycle and replace them all the time, and its why every single commercial product based on enzymes is single-use only. With time - and we're talking weeks, not years - they fall apart and stop working due to hydrolysis and self-reactions and what not.

This is why there was a lot of excitement when MIT successfully produced completely solid-state glucose fuel cells. Because a solid-state technology is not enzyme based, and would degrade much, much more slowly (also has other neat properties: like you can implant it).

The big news in...well just about anything, would be if they'd built a battery with a biological component that could self-regenerate the enzymes it needed to operate. That would make me excited - since we'd finally be talking about something you could actually build a useful and long-term product out of (also creating some hilarious new failure modes - 'sorry, your battery has developed an infection - please bring it to tech support for antibiotic treatment').

Re:I eagerly await... (3, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | about 6 months ago | (#46074149)

I imagine the enzymes would be recharged whenever the fuel (sugar) is. Not that there aren't other practical issues to deal with, of course...

New meaning to Type 2 Battery (3, Funny)

macwhiz (134202) | about 6 months ago | (#46073877)

You thought computer viruses were bad, wait until you have to deal with computer diabetes...

Re:New meaning to Type 2 Battery (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46074227)

Windows 8 has obesity

Re:New meaning to Type 2 Battery (1)

Mashdar (876825) | about 6 months ago | (#46074231)

The Microsoft version will be Livebetes -- It's a feature. Hello world! I've got Livebetes!

Enzymes and temperature? (5, Insightful)

Athator (2482228) | about 6 months ago | (#46073885)

If the battery is based off enzymatic reactions won't temperature be a massive variable?

Re:Enzymes and temperature? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074449)

Quick! Write up your grant proposals for research into using these batteries in vibrators! Relative states of stimulation.

Finally, a safe use for HFCS (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 6 months ago | (#46073887)

Maybe we can use High Fructose Corn Syrup for something other than making people obese.

Re:Finally, a safe use for HFCS (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 6 months ago | (#46073923)

Oh, good. Just what the world needs, more food being used as fuel for machines. That's never had any horrible consequences.

Re:Finally, a safe use for HFCS (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 6 months ago | (#46073967)

The world isn't short of food. The world just lacks a distribution system that makes sure everyone can get it. Free markets can be very powerful things, but providing universal access is one area they fail.

Re:Finally, a safe use for HFCS (2)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 6 months ago | (#46074177)

I'd argue that it isn't a failure of our distribution system so much as it is a failure of unchecked capitalism. For example, US consumers' demand for quinoa has pushed the price up so far that the people who used to survive on it (Peruvians, Bolivians) can no longer afford to eat it. http://www.theguardian.com/com... [theguardian.com]

The rich will always exploit the poor to whatever extent they can get away with. In this case, it means that a small group profits from foreign demand while the laborers suffer. It's the same as "blood diamonds" - perfectly normal "free market" foreign demand may send capital to the region, but increases human suffering.

Re:Finally, a safe use for HFCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074383)

That's not really true. In a free market the only thing that would happen when the price goes up are that the volume goes up, as there are no shortage in production capacity. Thats unless quinoa have requirements that makes it impossible to grow it outside of the farms that currently grows it.

There are no free markets where laborers suffer. If a product are in demand, free market will increase its production. That will require more labor, which unlike land are a very limited resource.

Why would more money to a region increase human suffering? All real-world examples I am aware of are because of market regulation where large companies lobby and create laws that favor them. That's not free market, in fat its the opposite.

There are a reason that there are no such thing as free market, except from inside some small usually communist countries that do not matter in the global economy. Large companies which have lots of money HATES free market. They want regulation The more regulation they get, the more happy they become. That's because regulation are always in their favor - they pay for it.

Take a look at american politics for example. What happens when someone propagates free market, and have sufficient resources to actually get noticed? Wall street lapdogs cracks down on them. Usually with anti-capitalist rhetoric, bit where the mayor american capitalists benefits from that rhetoric.

Re:Finally, a safe use for HFCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074531)

Thats unless quinoa have requirements that makes it impossible to grow it outside of the farms that currently grows it.

Which you could have taken the time to look up [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Finally, a safe use for HFCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074375)

Maybe we can use High Fructose Corn Syrup for something other than making people obese.

Robocop eats donuts!! News at 11.

Turn up the drip, doctor! (1)

mattr (78516) | about 6 months ago | (#46073895)

Looking forward to when I can stop buying all these temporary phone chargers in convenience stores and just set up an IV!
And the computer I buy in 2020 will have an artificial circulatory system.

Re:Turn up the drip, doctor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074139)

Looking forward to when I can stop buying all these temporary phone chargers in convenience stores and just set up an IV!
And the computer I buy in 2020 will have an artificial circulatory system.

When profits can be sown with blood, you will give new life to the term bloodthirsty corporation in ways you cannot imagine.

Haven't hit the Sweet Spot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073969)

This is News when they are pumping out 5V @ 1000mAh or better. Until then, just a toy like that lemon in the Science Fair when we were kids.

Sugar in the tank (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46073987)

And I always was told that putting sugar in the tank was a BAD thing...

Or was it then you get your iPhone? (3, Funny)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 6 months ago | (#46073993)

First you get the sugar
Then you get the power
Then you get the women.

Re:Or was it then you get your iPhone? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 6 months ago | (#46074399)

You will never get ME with sugar and power ... chocolate, OTOH

Power implantable devices? (3, Interesting)

ad454 (325846) | about 6 months ago | (#46074009)

This sounds like it would be prefect for implantable devices, that could leach off excess sugar in the blood.

With the high sugar content in western diets, one could both power implanted devices, plus prevent and treat diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels down to reasonable levels. It could act like an artificial pancreas, plus power a pacemaker, and maybe let you use a computer in your head. (Why isn't the NSA funding this, to stop thought crimes?)

Seems to me a much easier solution than forcing the political powerful processed food and fast food industries to cut back on sugar and syrup that are poisoning consumers.

Re:Power implantable devices? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074395)

Yes, because rather than fixing our diets to avoid illnesses we should develop patches to exploit them. Great forward thinking you got there.

Wow (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 6 months ago | (#46074019)

Something interesting and scientific on Slashdot, and everyone gathers 'round to explain why it won't work. ...like pretty much every other interesting and scientific post on Slashdot.

Why do you people even come to this site any more? Apparently you live in a world where science really sucks, because nothing works, even if there's a working prototype.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074391)

We cocksucking neckbeards mostly come here to troll you. Why do you come here?

Re:Wow (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 6 months ago | (#46074699)

Maybe your trolling will get better when you get your ass out of that tear-stained sling.

I come here because occasionally there's an interesting story posted. The comments are usually a gigantic unwiped ass, but after the bullshit is squeegeed off, there's about a 1:100 chance of marginal entertainment/educational value.

That's with the understanding that Slashdot, the "geek" community and the web in general has REALLY declined in the last ten years. I blame the fundamentalist atheism, but that's just my opinion.

Sugar power (1)

AuntieAlias (2703007) | about 6 months ago | (#46074033)

Sweeeeeeet!

VT University? *facepalm* (0)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 6 months ago | (#46074079)

Virginia Tech. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University if you want to go long form. VT if you're in a hurry.

Re:VT University? *facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074165)

Virginia Tech. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University if you want to go long form. VT if you're in a hurry.

THANK YOU! I was just about to post the same thing.

More answers please (2)

Twinbee (767046) | about 6 months ago | (#46074145)

So what are the disadvantages compared to a LIon battery? Does it need much maintenance (such as replacing the sugar)? Can you just plug it into the wall to charge like a normal rechargeable battery? How is the lifespan (cycles) and how quickly does it charge? Is there much vampire drain? How much power can it produce (W/kg)? Is the tech there yet or are there still obstacles to overcome? How cheaply can these be made?

Re:More answers please (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | about 6 months ago | (#46074191)

How long do the enzymes last? is probably the question at the front of my mind... related to life and charge cycles, sure, but if you don't "feed" it, do they deteriorate?

The bigger problem, I would think, is how practical is it to handle these? Last thing you want is ants getting into your 500Ah battery and blowing the crap out of it. Do they have to be "cleaned"? Do the enzymes have to be replenished (a nice little sideline for the battery company selling you replacement enzymes - until you fill it with cheap Chinese enzymes and then it stops working)? Does it have to be *cleaned*?

See, to me, the prevelance of a battery is highly dependent on its maintenance. Sure, we used to have to maintain lead-acids, but nowadays they are throw-and-replace or sealed anyway. All household batteries are maintenance-free, even the rechargeable. All coin batteries. All large batteries for UPS, car starters, solar systems, alarms, etc.

Hell, even "electric" cars have a maintenance-free battery that you have to swap out because the maintenance is ridiculous.

Honestly, I'd rather have a battery I can "recharge" with sugar that only does 5Ah instead of 500 and doesn't require any other maintenance (i.e. a fuel cell). But, ideally, I'd rather just have a battery that I don't ever have to do anything with but plug it in and then, years later, throw it away.

You can say that we have to be environmental etc. but lead-acid batteries can recycle extremely well. Until this gets close, it's not even worth an article.

And, sorry, but every battery technology that was ever succesful, I had never heard of it until I was holding one in my hand that came with a product (Ni-Cd, NiMH, Li-Ion, etc.). All the thousands of "new" batteries that make the news? I've yet to see a single one hit the stores in even the most limited fashion. As such, I ignore all battery technology until it's available for me to buy, preferably in 12V or AA versions.

Re:More answers please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074405)

It should be possible to do automatic maintenance if the batteries are standardized.

Re:More answers please (1)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 6 months ago | (#46074249)

So what are the disadvantages compared to a LIon battery? Does it need much maintenance (such as replacing the sugar)? Can you just plug it into the wall to charge like a normal rechargeable battery? How is the lifespan (cycles) and how quickly does it charge? ...

This is a fuel cell, not a secondary battery. You recharge it by putting more fuel (in this case, sugar) in. Of course it has better energy density than secondary batteries (as a rule, fuel cells do), but it's mostly not very applicable to the same uses.

Comparing it to Li-ion (as in TFS, and I presume TFA) rather than to existing fuel-cell technology is not only not useful, but harmful, as it causes people to get the entirely wrong impression about it, as evidenced by the questions you ask. But that's tech journalism for you.

Re:More answers please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074409)

How can one keep all the ants from eating the cellphone or redirecting the calls for more sugar?

It's not a battery. (4, Informative)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 6 months ago | (#46074159)

It's not a battery. It's a fuel cell. The reaction is not internally reversible. Once all the accessible sugar has been oxidized, you need new sugar to refuel it. It doesn't recharge. Most likely you wouldn't bother to refuel it at all. You'd treat it as a disposable that you simply replace, like an alkaline cell. The quoted 596 Ah/kg compares very favorably to the 92 Ah/kg of an alkaline. Of course, that's comparing a theoretical charge density calculated from lab equipment to a product. By the time you squeeze the lab equipment into the AA or AAA form factor, you can expect that quoted 596 to suffer rather badly.

Re:It's not a battery. (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 6 months ago | (#46074623)

From the article:

The sugar battery is rechargeable, but also refillable.

Where did you get the idea it isn't rechargeable?

Re:It's not a battery. (2)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 6 months ago | (#46075095)

Where did you get the idea it isn't rechargeable?

Chemistry. Many enzymatic reactions are not reversible at all. For those that are reversible, the reaction is not reversible simply by applying a charge. It's an equilibrium reaction, so concentrations of the reactants are what's important. The article is paywalled, so I haven't seen the exact sequence of 13 reactions, but let's quote again from The Fine Article:

The primary byproducts of the process are water and electricity. “We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade,” Zhang said.

That is not reversible. Some number of the 13 steps may or may not be, but some of them definitely are not. If you dismantle a sugar molecule that far, the only way you're going to reconstruct it using the same process that made it in the first place, which requires massive (on the molecular scale) cellular machinery. Otherwise known as plants.

The abstract makes no mention of rechargeability.

Also, there's my default assumption that journalists are idiots.

Re:It's not a battery. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46075013)

It's not a battery. It's a fuel cell. The reaction is not internally reversible. Once all the accessible sugar has been oxidized, you need new sugar to refuel it.

The quoted 596 Ah/kg compares very favorably to the 92 Ah/kg of an alkaline.

No. Not all electrons are of equal energy: 596ah*0.133v = 79.3wh while 92ah*1.2v = 110 wh. Thus, alkaline has the advantage on power density!

Bio-Battery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074197)

If it runs off of sugars and the human body fills itself with sugars... battery for bio-implants? Pacemakers? Optical implants? BORG?

And so it begins...

Technology should be used asap (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about 6 months ago | (#46074205)

If its so great, why arent we using it right now. Given the non-renewable nature of metal batteries, this is sort of a godsend. I was reading one article about the sugar batteries and the developer of the batteries said "Well it won't hold its charge for the duration of shipping so people won't want it". This is the dumbest comment I have ever heard as most people would be fine with charging the batteries at initial use and most cell phones, people are already used to charging every few days anyway so this is clearly a non issue and no reason to keep the technology back. People in fact much prefer chargeable batteries that they can reuse rather than buying new ones, its also better for the environment.

Re:Technology should be used asap (3, Informative)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about 6 months ago | (#46074565)

This is a fuel cell, not a battery. It can't be recharged without refueling it. The enzymes are probably what breaks down, so you'd need to put more in. Since they break down rapidly (as most enzymes do) that means making them locally. You can't just plug these into the wall to recharge them, you have to empty and refuel them.

Re:Technology should be used asap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46075125)

This is a fuel cell, not a battery. It can't be recharged without refueling it.

The article says you can. BUT in any case I'm sure there would be some kind of plug-in-cartridge like the old butane (or hydrogen) based fuel cells used.

Sony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46074207)

Sony have been working on bio batteries for years now [wikipedia.org] ,they probably have patents galore on all the tech involved.

4 sugars please... but not (1)

MXB2001 (3023413) | about 6 months ago | (#46074213)

for my Computers! I need all the sugar to feed my brain! Let 'em eat electricity! 'cause I sure can't.

Stop posting about non-existent fuel cells (5, Interesting)

sirwired (27582) | about 6 months ago | (#46074295)

I remember reading stories about fuel cells for laptops (powered by alcohol) during the first year of Slashdot. And, supposedly, such cells were going to be sold for popular laptop models in "a few months." Twenty or so years later, I'm still waiting.

If a fuel cell idea is still completely, and totally, lab-bound, it is unlikely to become a product in the next 15-20 years or so, if previous progress on the subject is any guide.

Orders of magnitude (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46074487)

A team of researchers at Virginia Tech University have developed a battery with energy density an order of magnitude higher than lithium-ion batteries

Bloody scientists. Why can't they just say "about ten times"?

Watt-hours, amps, density... (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 6 months ago | (#46074777)

All we want to know is, how long does a five pound bag of sugar last?

(corollary question, will McDonald's et al stop putting those little sugar packs out for anyone to take?)

Vapor (3, Insightful)

spasm (79260) | about 6 months ago | (#46074957)

If anyone ever develops an energy source powered by vaporous product claims, we'll be good forever.

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