Science and Tech


Sugar Battery Can Store More Energy Than Your iPhone

Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a sugar-powered fuel cell. They say it could be ready for commercial use as soon as three years from now.
Posted at 3:53 PM, Feb 05, 2014

Researchers at Virginia Tech have a sweet idea that could change how we power our devices.

This is a sugar-powered fuel cell. According to researchers, it stores more energy than the lithium-ion batteries found in most phones and tablets.

If you think about it, the idea of a sugar battery isn't that odd. Sugar is, as you know, a great energy source.

But for machines, which aren't yet capable of digesting a Snickers, extracting energy from sugar remains a challenge. Extreme Tech explains how the process works:

"In nature, an enzymatic pathway is used — a production line of tailor-made enzymes that meddle with the glucose molecules until they become ATP."

The ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, carries the energy. So Business Insider reports researchers had to create a synthetic "enzyme pathway" to achieve the same results. They did so by mixing different enzymes.

And the enzyme cocktail reportedly works well. The new battery has a storage capacity that's about 10 times that of the lithium-ion battery in your iPhone. But Business Insider warns:

"Even though the sugar battery stores a high amount of energy for its mass, the maximum amount of power it can put out is still lower than that of lithium-ions, thus limiting its potential applications to portable devices."

Guess that kind of shuts down the idea these sugar batteries could someday power our cars? Too bad because the only byproducts from the battery are air and water. (Via Ford)

Still, CNET considers what could happen. "While poorer areas may have better access to sugar than they do fossil fuels, mass commercialization of a sugar-based battery could lead to high prices and rising food costs."

KCET says it's too early to worry about food versus fuel, saying demand would need to ramp up significantly for it to even become a problem.

Researchers are confident in their sugar solution. They say it could be commercialized in as little as three years from now.