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Origami bio-battery powered by bacteria

Researchers at Binghamton University in New York have created a bacteria-powered bio-battery from a sheet of paper. The project is aimed at creating batteries for disposable microelectronics that can run for weeks using wastewater.

The manufacturing technique reduces fabrication time and cost, and the design could revolutionise the use of bio-batteries as a power source in remote, dangerous and resource-limited areas.

On one half of a piece of chromatography paper, the researchers placed a ribbon of silver nitrate underneath a thin layer of wax to create a cathode. They 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 with a few drops of wastewater are added, the microbes’ cellular respiration powers the battery.

The paper battery is no replacement for ordinary batteries, so don’t throw yours out yet. The scientists were able to generate 31.51 microwatts at 125.53 microamps with six batteries in three parallel series. It would take missions of millions of paper batteries to power a common 40-watt light bulb, but in for example disaster areas, the bio-battery could be very useful. According to the press release of Bringhamton, the origami batteries contain enough power to run biosensors that monitor glucose levels in diabetes patients, detect pathogens in a body or perform other life-saving functions.

The bio-battery was developed by Assistant Professor Seokheun “Sean” Choi, who is in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department within the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science. He worked on the paper with PhD candidate Yang Gao. 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.

Photos: Seokheun Choi (via sciencealert.com)

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