Sugar Power!

October 7, 2007

Sugar often has a bad press for health, but there may be a whole new use for it. Researchers at St. Louis University in Missouri have developed a type of fuel cell that can produce electricity from almost any type of sugar. The scientists successfully tested the new cell with a glucose solution, carbonated soft drinks, sweetened drink mixes and even tree sap.

The cell consumes sugar and leaves behind a handful of by-products, primarily water. The researchers have suggested that a battery constructed from the cell could contain easily replaceable cartridges filled with a sugar solution.

As I personally have often warned of the health dangers of carbonated drinks, I was interested to see that the biodegradable cell runs best off of the simple glucose solution, and it runs worst off of carbonated drinks, which caused it to weaken.

The US Department of Defense funded the research as part of an ongoing search to find ways to charge portable electronic devices in battlefield or emergency situations where no electricity is available. Initial research suggests that this sugar-powered fuel cell could be used to replace lithium-ion batteries in laptop computers and cell phones and they think it could ready for the mass market in about three years. The prototype battery is about the size of a postage stamp and the researchers used it to power a handheld calculator. Next time you go camping, pack a couple of extra bags of sugar in case your mobile battery runs down!


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