Sugar Batteries Could Soon Power Your Devices
Sugar Batteries Could Soon Power Your Devices

In as little as three years, a new sugar-powered battery could be powering cell phones, tablets, and more.

Researchers have harnessed the energy stored in sugar before, but the a battery recently developed at Virginia Tech has a much higher energy density than the others. It is thus considerably closer to becoming a viable product for common use.

Y.H. Percival Zhang published his team’s findings in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, stating “Sugar-powered biobatteries could serve as next-generation green power sources, particularly for portable electronics.”


Comparison of Energy Density: Sugar vs. Alkaline and Lithium


AA alkaline and lithium batteries have an energy density of about 150 to 250 Wh/kg-1

Sugar batteries have an energy density of more than 2,000 Wh/kg-1

Image of batteries via Shutterstock


How it’s Made

AVirginia Tech press release explains how the batteries are made: 

“Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

“Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel—in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch—with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.”

Zhang said, according to the release: “We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade.”

*Image of sugar via Shutterstock



  • takawalk

    If I read this correctly, the “sugar” batteries would be more efficient than those in common use now? This is interesting research, I might be naive, but I think perpetual motion, or perpetual energy is possible. Not to say that this is the answer, but it has the potential of greatly improving current tech.

  • Sereth

    This article is too brief and therefore misleading: it needs to be pointed out that a sugar battery is not like other batteries which are intended to store energy for long periods of time. Sugar batteries do not do this very well. Nor are they recharged electrically: they require a steady supply of new sugar, which they convert to electricity. This seems to me a flawed methodology of sustainable energy. Whereas with lithium batteries you can gather solar energy and store it in these batteries you need to rely on the costly, time-consuming process of growing sugarcane and then processing it to produce pure sugar for this purpose. So unless you have an efficient means of electrical input to catalyze a reaction that would build sugar chains synthetically this seems like a backwards idea.

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