Science Scope

Battery runs on paper, releases water as byproduct

Posting in Environment

A new "bio-battery" that runs on shredded paper or cardboard produces enough power to run an mp3 player and is small enough to fit into one.

Our batteries are full of toxic chemicals and then pollute our environment when we trash them. Clearly, they can be improved.

That's why a new battery demonstrated by Sony at the Eco-Products conference in Tokyo is so exciting: It runs on shredded paper or cardboard and its only "waste" product is water.

The simple description of what happens is that the battery functions by a mechanism similar to the way termites digest wood. The slightly more detailed description is that a solution of water and enzymes eat the paper, breaking down the cellulose in it and generating a current.

The even more detailed version is that when the enzymes break down the paper, they create electrons and hydrogen ions; the hydrogen ions then combine with air to produce water, while the electrons create the current.

In the demonstration, the battery was used to power a small fan.

This isn't the first biological-type battery. One previous model was used to power a pacemaker, and Sony also developed sugar-powered batteries on 2007.

But what's significant about this biological battery is that it produces enough power to run most electronics for the length of time most consumers expect from gadgets nowadays. However, while Sony says this new battery can power an mp3 player, they didn't specify whether they mean a power sipper like the Zune or a power hog like the iPod Touch.

Another reason to herald this new battery development is that this battery is small enough to fit in a portable device. Oh, and lastly, let's not forget that if these become ubiquitous, we'll have fewer toxic chemicals in our landfills and in the gadgets we carry.

via: Discovery News

Photo: mhaw/Flickr

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Laura Shin

Features Editor

Laura Shin has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is currently a contributor at Forbes. Previously, she worked at Newsweek, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and LearnVest. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure