Researchers from the State University of New York, Binghamton, have developed a new type of battery made of paper and fuelled by bacteria, which could eventually become a portable, low-cost alternative for powering diagnostic devices in regions where commercial batteries are unavailable or too expensive.

Dr Seokheun Choi presented the study’s findings at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Choi said: “Paper has unique advantages as a material for biosensors. It is inexpensive, disposable, flexible and has a high surface area.

“However, sophisticated sensors require a power supply. Commercial batteries are too wasteful and expensive, and they can’t be integrated into paper substrates. The best solution is a paper-based bio-battery.”

Disposable paper-based biosensors have previously been developed as a cheap and convenient way to diagnose diseases and detect environmental contaminants. Many of these devices rely on colour changes to indicate results but they are often not sensitive enough. Choi and his team aimed to develop an inexpensive paper battery that could be easily incorporated into single-use biosensors to boost their sensitivity.

The paper battery is made by printing thin layers of metals and other materials onto a paper surface. Then, freeze-dried exoelectrogens are placed onto the paper. Exoelectrogens are a type of bacteria that can transfer electrons outside of their cells. These electrons are generated when the bacteria make energy for themselves and they pass through the cell membrane. They then make contact with external electrodes and power the battery. Water or saliva is required to activate the battery. Within a couple of minutes, the liquid revives the bacteria, which have been shown to produce enough electrons to power a light-emitting diode and a calculator.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Choi said: “The power performance also needs to be improved by about 1,000-fold for most practical applications.” He thinks this could be achieved by stacking and connecting multiple paper batteries.

The effect of oxygen on the device was also tested. Oxygen was found to soak up the bacteria’s electrons before they reached the electrode which slightly decreased the device’s power generation abilities. However, this effect was minimal.

Currently, the battery can only be used once and has a shelf-life of about four months. Choi and his team are working to improve the survival and performance of the freeze-dried bacteria, with the aim of creating a longer shelf-life.

A patent for the paper battery has been applied for and Choi is seeking industry partners for commercialisation.