Researchers from Binghamton University, State University of New York have reached the next step in microbial fuel cells (MFC): a battery activated by spit. This new battery could be used in extreme conditions where normal batteries don’t work.
In the last five years Seokheun Choi, Binghamton University Electrical and Computer Science Assistant Professor, has focused on developing micro-power sources to be used in resource-limited areas to power point-of-care (POC) diagnostic biosensors. Choi has created a few paper-based bacteria-powered batteries.
"On-demand micro-power generation is required especially for point-of-care diagnostic applications in developing countries," said Choi. "Typically, those applications require only several tens of microwatt-level power for several minutes, but commercial batteries or other energy harvesting technologies are too expensive and over-qualified. Also, they pose environmental pollution issues."
Choi teamed up with Maedeh Mohammadifar to create a high-performance, paper-based, bacteria-powered battery by building microbial fuel cells with inactive, freeze-dried exoelectrogenic cells that generate power within minutes of saliva being added. The battery generated reliable power from a single drop of saliva. It supplies onboard power that could be used by the next generation of disposable, paper-based POC diagnostic platforms.
Choi is focused on improving the battery’s power density, so it can be used in more applications.
"Now, our power density is about a few microwatts per centimeter square. Although 16 microbial fuel cells connected in a series on a single sheet of paper generated desired values of electrical current and voltage to power a light-emitting diode (LED), further power improvement is required for other electronic applications demanding hundreds of milliwatts of energy," said Choi.
The paper on this research was published in Advanced Materials Technologies.