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The New Bacteria-Powered Battery Made From Paper


A battery like this can be folded down to the size of a matchbook.Not only will batteries be powered differently in the future, they’ll probably look different too.

Origami, the Japanese craft of paper folding, can be used to create everything from cranes to dragons. An engineer from Binghamton University has found a way to apply the idea to batteries as well.

The foldable paper battery is bacteria-powered; power is generated from microbial respiration. Adequate energy is delivered to run a biosensor, and all it takes is a drop of dirty water. The organic matter in the dirty water is what creates the energy.

This solution is appealing to many, including those that work in isolated areas with few resources. Paper is cheap and usually easily found or carried. It is also biodegradable. As paper is absorbent, there’s no need for parts like pumps in a system like this. The idea is especially attractive to those working in disease control and prevention, as it could help create diagnostic tools in developing areas.

The researcher, Seokheun Choi, says that he sees a system in which the foldable paper battery could create enough energy to run the sensor on its own. The energy required is not much – only microwatts. It is hoped that this system will come to life over the lifetime of a three-year grant given by the National Science Foundation.

The foldable paper battery can be reduced to the size of a matchbook, and uses a cathode created with nickel, sprayed onto the side of paper. The anode is printed onto the paper with carbon paint. All of this is cheap to do – the total cost of this is five cents. With a low cost of production and a defined vision, it is possible we’ll be seeing this used sooner rather than later.

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