Scientists Build Battery on Single Sheet of Paper Powered by Bacteria

Scientists Build Battery on Single Sheet of Paper Powered by Bacteria

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In the future, instead of ordering batteries by the pack, we might get them by the ream.

Researchers at Binghamton University – SUNY (State University of New York) have created a bacteria-powered battery on a single sheet of paper – a design that could revolutionize the use of bio-batteries as a power source in remote, dangerous, or resource-limited areas. The simple manufacturing technique also reduces the fabrication time and cost.

The stand-alone and self-sustained, paper-based batteries can generate enough power to run biosensors that can monitor glucose levels in diabetes patients, detect pathogens in a body, or perform other life-saving functions.

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On one half of a piece of chromatography paper, Assistant Professor Sean Choi and PhD candidate Yang Gao placed a ribbon of silver nitrate beneath a thin layer of wax to create a cathode. The team then made a reservoir out of a conductive polymer on the other half of the paper, which acted as the anode. Once properly folded and a few drops of bacteria-filled liquid were added, the microbial cellular respiration powers the battery.

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Different folding and stacking methods can significantly improve power and current outputs. Scientists were able to generate 31.51 microwatts with six batteries in a three parallel series and 44.85 microwatts in a 6×6 configuration.

It would take millions of paper batteries to power a common 40-watt light bulb, but on the battlefield or in a disaster situation, usability and portability of power sources is paramount.

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“Among many flexible and integrative paper-based batteries with a large upside, paper-based microbial fuel cell technology is arguably the most underdeveloped,” said Choi. “We are excited about this because microorganisms can harvest electrical power from any type of biodegradable source, like wastewater, which is readily available. I believe this type of paper biobattery can be a future.”

The innovation is the latest step in paper battery development by Choi. His team developed its first paper prototype in 2015, which was a foldable battery that looked much like a matchbook. Earlier this year they unveiled a design that was inspired by a ninja throwing star.

(Source: Binghampton University)

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