Um, I hope this fits on my tray during the flight.
Soon it may be time to say “good-bye” to our conventional lithium-ion batteries. You may or may not heard about fuel cell technology that has been in the news over the last few months. But what about batteries that use spinach or bacteria? That’s right Popeye, spinach may just give your Tablet PC the energy required to pump up that CPU muscle! Or perhaps you would prefer a battery that doubles as a home for Rhodoferax ferrireducens? That would be okay as long as it doesn’t make you sick right? Besides it is doubtful that you will be the one harvesting this bacteria anyway.
Darn my tablet has only 7% charge left!
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been working with spinach to power mobile devices. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC are also involved.
By creating a spinach-powered solar battery, researchers hope that it will one day be able to power mobile devices for users who are away from AC power outlets needed to recharge computer batteries. Instead all that’s required is a bit of sunlight.
To create a “spinach battery” researchers made a sort of “spinach sandwich” Inside this solar battery a protein complex from spinach cells is “sandwiched” between layers of transparent, electrically conductive material. This in turn literally creates a tiny “power plant” (no pun intended) about the thickness of a human hair! At this point a spinach battery strong enough to power your Tablet PC is still a ways off, but don’t be surprised if your stock in Green Giant doubles in value when they merge with Intel!
Say “hello” to your little friends!
There is no doubt that paranoid technology-challenged users will think that they might get a “virus” on there hard drive with a bacteria battery – lol. But since the Tablet PC community is ahead of the curve – we all know better right?
To date scientists have been able to use the bacteria Rhodoferax ferrireducens to actually power such devices as calculators and light bulbs. This micro-organism actually feeds on simple sugars like the kind found in fruit and sugar cane.
To make this work, scientists attach the sugar-feeding bacteria to electrodes. While the bacteria metabolizes the sugars, it actually tranfers electrons onto the surface of the electrodes which in turn creates electricity. Although you can’t run out to CompUSA and buy a “bacteria battery” for your tablet yet, this may someday be an option. Maybe we aren’t too far away from the “Mr. Fusion” reactor we saw in Back to the Future.
At about the same size as today lithium-ion batteries, methanol powered “fuel cell” batteries promise to power your Tablet PC or small mobile devices for up to ten times longer than the batteries we use today. Methanol fuel cells are the most promising solution to date since there are several manufacturers in the mobile computing space that have already begun to develop working prototypes. To read more about research and development of fuel cell batteries, check out our story from July here.