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Bacteria-powered folding batteries could power paper biosensors

Billy Steele
June 10, 2015
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We've seen flexible displays for some time now, and engineers at Binghamton University developed an origami-inspired foldable battery. The folding part is great, but these batteries are also powered by bacteria and made from paper, providing an low-cost option for remote locales where resources are scarce. That all sounds good, but what are the potential uses? Well, paper-based biosensors have been around for a bit too, but they usually have to be paired with some sort of device to be of any use. The goal is to create tech that allows those sensors to power themselves. Currently, the battery folds down to about the size of a matchbook and costs five cents to make.

"Paper is cheap and it's biodegradable," assistant professor Seokheun Choi says. "And we don't need external pumps or syringes because paper can suck up a solution using capillary force." Where does the bacteria come into play? Organic matter -- like you'd find in dirty water, for example -- serves up enough energy (in microwatts) through the process of bacterial metabolism. Wastewater joins sweat as methods to generate electricity with limited resources, now if scientists could only figure out what to do with all those farts.

[Image credit: Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University]

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