Glucose powered battery

When I first saw this story, I thought of glucose as something which you burn to extract energy from, reminiscent to the gummy bear experiment often displayed in classrooms. These often produce lots of energy, but don’t last for a very long time, whereas you’d want a battery to store and release over a far longer period of time.

Researchers at Virginia Tech with their work

The ‘bio batteries’ do not rely on burning the glucose to extract useful energy from it, instead using enzymes which have been specially tailored to break down the glucose and turn it into useable electricity. It is difficult to extract useful energy from glucose with a non biological method, which is why burning glucose is one of the more common methods of doing so. However, we want to cut down on burning fuels for energy, and so this could be a viable solution if it were to work.

13 enzymes are combined with maltodextrin and air within the battery, and the only by products are water and electricity – so far, so good. The batteries could have around 10 times the density compared to lithium ion technology that we currently utilise. There hasn’t been enough research done yet to determine how many times the battery could be charged/discharged and whether it could be scaled up to power electric vehicles – the researchers say that it would take around another 3 years to become commercially available.

Another question that is always at the forefront when considering biofuels, is whether food or fuel should take priority. When crops are turned over to be sold for fuel instead of human or animal consumption, prices can often be affected, and shortages can occur. These issues would also have to be taken into account before this could become a new, widely available  source of energy.

All in all, the concept sounds intriguing. Higher density batteries are always highly desirable, especially with the popular demand for mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops, which all rely on batteries. A common problem with smartphones is that the batteries often only last about a day, so a more dense battery source that could extend this to 10 days would be a welcome advancement.

Let me know what you think of this in the comments here or on my facebook page. Do you think that this could be the next big step for batteries, or would there be too many problems to overcome?

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