Sugar may be the next big fuel source

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

biobattery science
Virginia Tech’s Y.H. Percival Zhang (right) and Zhiguang Zhu (left) show off their sugar battery, which pushes beyond the limits of current biobatteries.

Researchers from Virginia Tech have devised a very sweet biobattery that creates electricity by mimicking our body’s use of sugar for energy! The invention, which is more powerful than previous biobattery creations, may power our gadgets in the near future.

In a process known as metabolism, the body uses a series of chemical reactions to produce energy. In the case of sugar, the body takes oxygen we inhale and special proteins known as enzymes to fuel us. It’s a very complex process, and other biobatteries are only able to recreate a few of the many steps. Because they fall short, this often results in a waste of precious power. However, this isn’t true for the Virginia Tech biobatteries.

The difference lies in the fact that they have extra enzymes inside. Once energy is extracted from sugar, these additional enzymes borrow some and then use it to reset the whole chemical reaction. After this process completes 6 cycles, the battery extracts all the energy possible from the sweet molecule. This makes the invention 6 times more energy efficient than previous ones!

The researchers claim that the new biobattery has the potential to be more efficient than most lithium batteries, which are the electronic batteries used in many portable gadgets today. There are still a few problems to overcome before we see sugar-powered laptops, though. For example, the researchers have to figure out a way to recharge the cells, or else their lifespan would be too short to be useful.

Featured image courtesy of Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Evan-Amos on Wikipedia. Image of researchers courtesy of Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.