A research team in China has come with a new technology that could give new meaning to the words “energy drink.” The team is developing a tiny fuel cell that runs on ordinary soda pop, the kind you can buy in a supermarket. The use of a common, inexpensive ingredient was no accident, as the team hopes to develop a low cost version of the fuel cell that could be widely used to power miniature implantable medical devices as well as small portable electronics.
Energy from Soda Pop
Elsewhere in CleanTechnica we’ve covered a group of students who are developing ways to make ethanol biofuel from waste soda pop, which bottling plants dispose in mass quantities for various reasons. The process is based on fermentation and uses microbes to break down the sugars in soda. In contrast, fuel cells use a chemical reaction to create electricity. The Chinese researchers used an enzyme called bilirubin oxidase, which reacts with the glucose in the soft drinks. The result is something called a biofuel cell.
Building a Better Biofuel Cell
The U.S. Navy has been developing a microbial fuel cell with some success (microbial fuel cells involve the entire organism), but biofuel cells based on enzymes have proven more elusive. The U.S. Air Force has had a soda pop biofue cell under development for a number of years. The Chinese research looks promising due to its use of carbon nanotubes formed in the shape of horns, which produces higher surface area, lending more power and stability to the reaction.