The Bio-Battery: Converting Sugar into Electrical Energy

The bio-battery (enzymatic fuel cell) uses enzymes to convert sugar into energy similar to the way your body uses enzymes to convert food into energy.  Researchers have spent the last five years working on a unique recipe for a reproducible, stable bio-battery which is both low cost and green. (Photo: CERDEC)

The bio-battery (enzymatic fuel cell) uses enzymes to convert sugar into energy similar to the way your body uses enzymes to convert food into energy. (Photo: CERDEC)

Christopher Hurley is an engineer with the Army Power division of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), which is located at Fort Monmouth, N.J. Mr Hurley is manager for the Dismounted Soldier Power Army Technology Objective and specializes in energy storage devices.

Last day of the symposium and CERDEC Army Power will be wrapping it up with a media roundtable today! In addition to the “traditional” R&D efforts, I hope we get questions regarding our work in alternative power solutions.

We’re developing fuel cells, smart grids and environmental control units; harvesting wind and solar power; and examining waste-to-energy and biofuels. But one of the more novel projects we’re developing is a power source which converts commonly available sugars directly into electrical energy.

The bio-battery (enzymatic fuel cell) uses enzymes to convert sugar into energy similar to the way your body uses enzymes to convert food into energy.  Researchers have spent the last five years working on a unique recipe for a reproducible, stable bio-battery which is both low cost and green.

The bio-battery has numerous advantages over existing batteries.  The biggest of which is that it allows for instant recharge (through supply of more sugar) in comparison with traditional batteries which require access to power for two or more hours.

In comparison to fuel cells, the bio-battery has the advantage of a non-toxic, non-flammable fuel source (sugar) which is already in the Army supply chain.  This is a huge logistics bonus considering the military’s one-fuel-forward policy makes providing methanol, hydrogen and other alternative fuels difficult.

The first target application is to provide a clean renewable power source for the Warfighter and fulfill a critical role in lightening the soldier’s load.  In today’s increasingly electronic Army, Soldiers carry 20-40 pounds of batteries for a typical 72-hour mission.  The bio-battery is designed to be a mission-extender to decrease the number of batteries carried by the Warfighter.

U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, located at Fort Monmouth, N.J.Other Defense Department applications include a range of remote monitoring, sensing and surveillance needs.  Finally, applications are foreseen in implantable applications where the bio-battery can produce power indefinitely from a self-sustaining supply of sugar bearing materials in both plants and animals.

The promise of the technology was recently demonstrated at the Power Sources Conference where the bio-battery was connected to an electronic device comprising a Microprocessor and LCD display.  The bio-battery was able to power the system for over 10 hours using less than 20mL of sugar solution.  The current intent of this innovative technology is to integrate it with military systems and demonstrate it in field trials in 2011.

The potential is very exciting, and I’d like to hear you thoughts regarding this or other alternative energy/power solutions – especially if you have recommendations or lessons learned. If so, visit Army Power or contact CERDEC Public Affairs: (732) 427-1594.

In the meantime, check out some articles regarding the rise of renewable/alternative energy solutions and the work we’re doing at CERDEC Army Power. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

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  • arturo659

    Let's see you convert the sugar into some type of energy in Diabetic personnel! (Smile).

  • http://www.facebook.com/claudia.ochsner Claudia Ochsner

    Cool and amazing work !!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000091323934 Justin Hagen

    That is awesome!

  • Ottostrahl

    That's the way to go. The future is here. I'm going to invest in sugar, salt it away,and live happily ever after, selling a few hundred pounds every year. Wait a minute.First I have to make the money to buy the sugar….oh well….

  • Madelyn

    well we are working on it for our robot club but we had the idea to use electrical induction to withdraw the extra sugar in the blood and put it into a charger, then charge the batteries with it. that way instead of getting pokes with needles and injected with insulin if your levels . are too high, you can charge a battery.

  • http://localtradersuk.ogseo.com/ http://www.localtraders.com/

    I know they are looking into this kind of energy creation to help convert wast into power!