Huntsville research company develops sugar-powered batteries

Published: Jul. 11, 2012 at 9:13 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 6:15 PM CST
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A Huntsville-based research company has developed an innovative way to power batteries using...
A Huntsville-based research company has developed an innovative way to power batteries using sugar.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A Huntsville-based research company has developed an innovative way to power batteries using sugar.

CFDRC, located at the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology, is leading the initiative.

Sameer Singhal, director of CFDRC's biomedical and energy division, said the new batteries are green, cheaper to produce, and could be on store shelves within two years.

Singhal and his team designed a battery that could convert a single sugar packet into a theoretical energy density equal to six AA batteries.

Sugar from sports drinks, soda, and juice could also power the specially designed batteries.

The batteries use enzymes as a catalyst instead of the traditional use of metals like nickel and platinum, according to Singhal.

Those enzymes, extracted from certain bacteria, then breakdown the sugar and convert it into battery energy. Not only are the batteries better for the environment, they're cheaper to produce and could become affordable to buy later down the line.

"The enzymes are a very cheap resource. Much cheaper than a platinum catalyst," Singhal said.

"So once you get to economies of scale, I think it could be in the $10 to $20 range."

CFDRC is one of several companies that participate in the city's Energy Huntsville initiative led by Mayor Tommy Battle.

The company's bio-battery technology was also featured in the Washington, D.C.-based web site "Planet Forward," where it received further attention.

Singhal said the research is largely funded by the Department of Defense for possible use in the U.S. Army.

The new batteries could change the way troops use batteries in combat zones. Singhal said soldiers could recharge their batteries using a sugar solution or even straight from a can of soda.

The technology could also help hikers or campers in need of a remote power source. It especially looks useful in disaster situations demonstrated in the aftermath of the April 27th tornados.

"People had a really hard time charging those cell phones for four to five days so if you would use Gatorade, Coke, or sugar water to recharge your cell phone, I think that's a huge advantage in disaster relief," Singhal said.

Singhal said the technology has been researched at the university level over the last decade but he hopes his research will give it commercial potential.

The company is working on another prototype that implants a small version of the battery in insects.

The makeshift pacemaker uses energy from sugar in the bloodstream. Singhal said he hopes to advance the technology further for possible use in humans.

Singhal said the military is sampling initial prototypes of the batteries and hopes to sell them as products in the market within the next 18 to 24 months.

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