The Bio-battery: It's ALIVE!

For as frightening as the dystopian future of The Matrix looks -- in which human beings are used as batteries to power the machines that keep them captive -- the idea of biologically-powered devices is actually pretty cool.  (As long as the AI from Ray Kurzweil's technological singularity doesn't sprout metal tentacles turn all H.R. Giger-ey on us, I think we'll be okay.)

Researchers at Sony among other corporations and institutions have developed a technology to harness that energy in the same way -- enter the Bio-Battery.  The bio-battery generates a flow of electrons by feeding an enzyme it's favorite food: glucose, just sugar-water.  Think about it: humans convert sugars into electrical current all the time!  A can of Coke holds as much energy potential in it as 72 AA batteries!  

At a 2012 TEDx event, Sameer Singhal explains and demonstrates the principles behind the bio-battery and its applications in the future.  Imagine mounting a camera or microphone to the back of a radio-controlled june-bug, all being powered by the sugars already in the insect's bloodstream.  Think of self-powered pacemakers implanted into patients, or the soldier who can replace the 20+ pounds of batteries usually in their packs with medicine or ammunition when deployed.  On the production side of things, think of the rare-earth metals that are conserved and the sustainability of using 100% renewable carbon-based enzymes instead.  Even more exciting is the graph at around 2:45 (below) which depicts that in only four years' research the electrical current generated has increased 100-fold, showing the potential for this technology to surpass and completely overtake traditional metal batteries.  Now that's a future we can look forward to!

But while we are waiting for The Matrix to consume the life force from us all, we can do our part to conserve energy wisely.  A few of the simple ways include:

  • Using rechargeable batteries where appropriate.
  • Consuming the red pill (or green, as it were).
  • Recycling or disposing of used batteries properly.