Juice Up Your Electronics, Literally

This post is presented by SBE, the Society for Biological Engineering--a global organization of leading engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing the integration of biology with engineering.

Juice Up Your Camera

Imagine you're on a backpacking trip high atop the Sierra Nevadas. You were dying to test out your amateur photography skills but in the rush of getting ready for the trip, you forgot to charge the camera's battery.

Now you'll have to ask someone else to share their photos, but they won't be as good as yours. And they may not even get around to sending them to you. But wait...you did bring that Mountain Dew!

A potential scenario in the not-too-distant future is that we'll be able to recharge our electronics with a sugar fix--sip of juice, "Mountain Dew", or maybe olive oil. What?

At the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemistry Society, a study funded by the National Science Foundation revealed that a new "battery-like" device could recharge our smart phones, cameras, laptops and other devices. Described as "...the first demonstration of a new class of biofuel cells," Shelly Minteer, Ph.D. reports that the device could potentially replace rechargeable and disposable batteries for our devices.

She also notes that it's the premier devices based on one of the microscopic parts of billions of cells in the body. Minteer's report continues:

Sometimes called the cell's own powerhouses, mitochondria transform the calories in food into chemical energy that the body needs to sustain life. Mitochondria use a chemical formed from the digestion of sugar and fats, called pyruvate, to make another substance called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which stores energy until needed. Each day the mitochondria in a typical person produce and recycle an amount of ATP equal to the person's body weight. This energy-producing system powered by sugar or fats opens the possibility of refueling a laptop or cell phone with vegetable fats or common oils, said Minteer, a chemist with Saint Louis University in Missouri.

These biofuel cells are not new, according to Minteer, and they work much like batteries--but without running down or needing to be recharged. Read the full release.

The implications for a device like this are huge. Think about the amount of waste that could be reduced. I'll bet battery manufacturers won't be happy though. This is the sort of story that makes me happy about other potential uses of biofuel.

Have you read about any other discoveries you'd like to share?

images credits: Thirsty by A. Dawson and Polaroid izone 550 by d'n'c