Ever thrown away a battery instead of recycling it? Don’t feel bad, we all subscribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” approach to battery disposal but unfortunately they don’t magically vanish once they’re thrown away. The problem is that landfills aren’t exactly the greatest place for batteries to end up.
Batteries need a host of toxic heavy metals like lead and mercury to function, and while they are great at generating and storing energy they are lethal to both the human body and the environment. America alone runs through hundreds of thousands of batteries per year, and when disposed of incorrectly landfills end up with a pile of them leaking heavy metals into the surrounding soil.
So what’s the solution to all this gloom and doom? Virginia Tech scientist Percival Zhang and may have found a high-tech but low cost solution. Zhang has successfully developed a battery that runs on sugar and published the results in the science journal Nature Communications.
Sugar is already nature’s primary energy storage device with a lot of energy locked into its molecular structure. Zhang’s device harnesses that energy by using an enzyme combined with a biological catalyst to unlock the energy piece by piece. The result is a battery that requires no heavy metals, making it cheaper and biodegradable. The best part is that they’re also fully rechargeable. Since the battery runs on sugar, you can give it the printer ink treatment and just pour sugar into the battery to fill it back up.
Other attempts to harness sugar as a fuel source have been attempted before, but Zhang’s battery does so much more efficiently. It is able to hold a charge much longer than its predecessors, making it commercially viable for our phones and electronic gadgets. Zhang predicts that they could be seeing commercial use within three years.