As bacteria feed on organic waste electrons are produced, so they could potentially be used as a source of power. A team of researchers at Binghamton University, NY have found a way to incorporate microbial fuel cells into a battery that is made of paper and also foldable. Since this new battery is paper-based, it is also completely biodegradable.
The battery they created can be paired with low-power biosensors, and then easily disposed of in an environmentally friendly way once it is no longer needed. It is also extremely cheap to make. This battery is perfectly suited for use in environmental sensors or medical procedures, as it can create power from virtually anything where microbes are present, such as water, soil or even the human body. It can also work using any liquid, including body fluids, namely blood, sweat, urine, or saliva.
To create the battery the scientists placed an anode on one side of the paper, which is made from a reservoir of bacteria-filled water and from a conductive polymer. On the other side of the paper, a small amount of silver nitrate encased in a thin layer of wax forms the cathode. As the paper is folded an electric current is produced. An accordion-style fold creates the most electricity, while the paper can also be folded in different ways to generate different levels of electrical output.
This is the upgraded version of the paper-based origami-style battery that lead researcher on the team, Seokheun “Sean” Choi built some time ago. It doesn’t need as many layers of paper as the previous version, since all the components are integrated into a single sheet of paper.
The uses for this innovative new battery are many and varied. It could be used in disaster relief situations, on battlefields, as well as in medical clinics in remote areas. In addition, they can also easily be used to detect pathogens and toxins in the environment.
A shift to using renewable sources of energy to fuel our lifestyle is a must if we want to ensure a sustainable future. But finding such sources that are reliable, scalable, affordable and eco-friendly has been a challenge. Hydrogen is certainly one such potential source, if it could be produced and stored more efficiently, and using renewable energy to do so. But all this has proven difficult. However, the company HyperSolar has recently come up with a solution, which they believe could change all that.
HyperSolar have made a breakthrough in producing low-cost, scalable, and renewable hydrogen, using polluted or dirty water as its main source. They created a device called the H2 Generator to do the job. The device is powered by sunlight, and has a solar array attached to it, meaning it doesn’t need an additional or separate array to run. The device is a “self-contained Photoelectrochemical Nanosystem” and the technology was designed in a way that mimics photosynthesis. They claim that the nanoparticle-based system they developed leads to a significantly more efficient electrolysis process compared to a system that would be powered by a separate solar unit. Since the device has the solar array attached to it, there is also very little energy loss. The entire device, including the solar array can be submerged in water.
According to HyperSolar, the device optimizes the science of water electrolysis, using sunlight to separate hydrogen from any available source of water to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable hydrogen. To work, the H2 Generator does not need conventional electrolyzers that are energy intensive and expensive.
They are currently testing the lab-scale prototype of the H2 Generator, but they believe it could easily be scaled up and set to work turning wastewater into energy. Let’s hope this tech becomes available soon.
Air pollution is one of the key problems that need to be overcome in order to secure a more sustainable future for our planet. So it’s great news that a team of scientists from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven, have devised a process that can both mitigate air pollution as well as provide a clean energy source in the form of hydrogen, at the same time. This device does so using nanomaterials and sunlight.
The nanomaterials are contained within the membrane of the device the team developed, where they are used as a catalyst in this process. Previously, this same type of membrane was used to extract hydrogen from water, but the team has now found that it’s possible for this material to also be used to extract it from polluted air. And on top of that, this membrane is also more efficient at doing so. To test it, the team has made a small prototype of the device, which measures just a few square centimeters, but they plan to scale it up to make it industrially applicable.
The energy for the process to run comes from sunlight, and the device which makes it possible is described as an “all-gas-phase unbiased photoelectrochemical cell”. It works by converting volatile organic pollutants into CO2 at one photoanode, and by harvesting hydrogen gas at the cathode. The device is most efficient when applied to organic pollutants in inert carrier gas, while if oxygen is present, the cell performs less efficiently though significant photocurrents are still generated, meaning that it can be effectively used to purify organic contaminated air.
It will most likely take some time before this device is ready for use on an industrial scale, but it does show a lot of promise. If they successfully scale it up, air pollution could become a source of clean energy instead of being an energy sink and a health hazard.
Zero Mass Water, an Arizona State University startup has created solar panel which produces water as well as electricity. The device is called SOURCE and it is standalone, meaning that it does not need any wiring or water input to harvest solar energy and produce drinking water at the same time. They have been running a pilot program since 2015 to test the system, which is already installed in a number of homes and communities.
One SOURCE unit measures 30 sq ft (2.8 sq m). It is capable of generating electricity via the solar photovoltaic panel, while it also has an integrated lithium-ion for storing the used electricity. The device then uses that electricity to power a cycle of condensation and evaporation, which produces 2 to 5 liters of water a day.
The system also includes an 8 gal (30 liter) reservoir for storing the waters that’s produced. Minerals are also added to the water here to improve taste. This reservoir can also be plumbed directly to the taps inside the building in which this system is installed. To meet the full needs of the household, multiple SOURCE units can be installed.
According to the creators, these units require minimal maintenance. The system only needs a new air filter once a year and a new mineral cartridge every five years. What also makes this system so unique is that it allows people to own their own water supply for the first time. They will also be very useful in areas where there is little to no access to drinking water.
To speed up deployment in these areas the company is starting an interesting program aimed at early adopters of the tech. They will ask customers who buy one of these SOURCE panels to split the cost of an additional panel with the company. This additional panel will be given to a family or community in need, and the customer will get to choose where it will be deployed. The household to which this panel will be given will only pay for installation and shipping.
The price is set at $4800 per unit, which is made up of $3200 for one SOURCE unit, and $1600 for the additional unit to be gifted to a family or community in need. It’s a thoughtful initiative, which will hopefully help several communities gain access to clean water.
Back to the Future II is one of those movies that continue to influence our imagination even though it was released way back in 1989. It foretold a bunch of advancements that we would have by the year 2015, some of which came very close to coming true, some not so much. The movie also inspired a nanotechnology scientist at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center, Associate Professor Jayan Thomas, to try and create solar powered textiles. And he has now succeeded, so something like self-lacing shoes as worn by Marty McFly in the movie could well be available soon.
Thomas has successfully developed solar-powered filaments, which are able to harvest energy from the sun and store it. They can also be woven into textiles to create smart textiles, which would basically be a type of wearable solar-powered batteries. These batteries could then be used to charge our gadgets, while they’d also be able to perform various other functions.
The filaments Thomas created are constructed out of a thin copper ribbon, which has solar cells on one side. The other side is covered by an energy storing layer. Thomas and his team used a tabletop loom to weave these filaments into a square patch of cloth. The weaving process is very simple, and these filaments could easily be incorporated into a wide range of clothing, including jackets, sweaters, pants and more. This would be great for the average man, but the most obvious and advantageous application of this technology would probably be for military personnel. Currently, soldiers must wear batteries weighing about 30 pounds when walking in the desert heat. If solar-powered jackets were made part of their uniforms, this load would be lessened considerably.
Another potential use of it is in electric cars, though in truth the possibilities of how such solar-powered fabric could be used to pave the way to a more sustainable future are only limited by our imagination.