Bacteria powered battery build on a piece of paper

A battery powered by bacteria , a fascinating discovery from a group of scientists from the USA. They are from the Binghamton University in New York and have build a bacteria-powered battery on a single sheet of paper that can power expendable electronics. The  technique used reduces fabrication time and cost, and the design could transform the use of bio-batteries as a power source in remote, dangerous and resource-limited areas.


“Papertronics have recently emerged as a simple and low-cost way to power disposable point-of-care diagnostic sensors,” said Assistant Professor Seokheun Choi,  The director of the Bioelectronics and Microsystems Lab at Binghamton.

“Stand-alone and self-sustained, paper-based, point-of-care devices are essential to providing effective and life-saving treatments in resource-limited settings,” said Choi.

Choi and PhD candidate Yang Gao, the co-author of the paper, used the one half of a piece of chromatography paper, then  placed a ribbon of silver nitrate underneath a narrow layer of wax to create a cathode. After this the scientists made a reservoir out of a conductive polymer on the other half of the paper, which acted as the anode. When properly folded and a few drops of bacteria-filled liquid are added, the microbes’ cellular respiration powers the battery.

“The device requires layers to include components, such as the anode, cathode and PEM (proton exchange membrane),” said Choi. “[The final battery] demands manual assembly, and there are potential issues such as misalignment of paper layers and vertical discontinuity between layers, which ultimately decrease power generation.”

They tested

different folding and stacking methods, and found that some significantly improve power and current outputs. The researchers were able to generate 31.51 microwatts at 125.53 microamps with six batteries in three parallel series and 44.85 microwatts at 105.89 microamps in a 6×6 configuration.

To power a common 40-watt light bulb, it would take millions of them, but in remote places or in a disaster situation, usability and portability is superior. Even with such low power its possible to run biosensors that monitor glucose levels in diabetes patients, detect pathogens in a body or perform other life-saving functions.

“Among many flexible and integrative paper-based batteries with a large upside, paper-based microbial fuel cell technology is arguably the most underdeveloped,” said Choi. “We are excited about this because microorganisms can harvest electrical power from any type of biodegradable source, like wastewater, that is readily available. I believe this type of paper biobattery can be a future power source for papertronics.”

This innovation is one of the latest steps in paper battery development by  Proffessor Choi. His team developed its first paper prototype in 2015, which was a foldable battery that looked much like a matchbook. Earlier this year they disclosed a design that was inspired by a ninja throwing star.

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