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'Biofuel Cells' Could Power Gadgets With Energy Drinks

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posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 01:30 PM

Yet another revolutionary advance in technology, this time utilizing cell metabolism.
I love seeing tech advances mimicking nature. So many of the best designs are already provided in nature and we just need to successfully imitate some of these systems.
"It ultimately may lead to the introduction of a whole new domain of fuels that we would never otherwise be able to tap."
Sounds promising for sure and I hope this could be a tipping point for a new direction in generating/storing energy.

Battery-like "biofuel cells" could in the future run on an energy drink or even vegetable oil, says a researcher.

A prototype cell has been described at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in the US.

The idea makes use of mitochondria, the power stations that in most living cells turn food into energy.

While applications may be far in the future, the work is a milestone in the integration of parts of a living cell into an electronic device.

Shelley Minteer of St Louis University in Missouri, US, said the devices could in the future replace disposable batteries in some applications.

Dr Minteer has been part of a wider research effort that is borrowing some of nature's tricks for energy production.

Typically this involves the breaking down and rebuilding of molecules in a form that can be used by cells. That process unleashes electrons along the way - electrons that can be corralled and become electricity.

Until now, the efforts of Dr Minteer and her collaborators have focused on the use of enzymes, molecules that are expert at breaking down particular "fuel" molecules such as methanol or glucose.

But the new effort makes use of one of the living cell's tiny constituent parts known as mitochondria.

These are a whole ensemble of enzymes working together to convert a range of "fuel" molecules into a form that cells can directly use.

It ultimately may lead to the introduction of a whole new domain of fuels that we would never otherwise be able to tap”

Plamen Atanassov
University of New Mexico
"In order to be able to completely consume a fuel... you need a whole series of enzymes, anywhere from three, for something simple, to 22 for something like glucose, and you need to get these enzymes to work together," Dr Minteer told BBC News. "The mitochondria channel the fuel from enzyme one directly to enzyme two and so on; they do this metabolism far more efficiently than we do by putting a soup of enzymes down on the electrode."

The demonstration device has only been used with simple fuels made of a single type of molecule, as the enzyme approaches have required until now. But future efforts will aim to make the cells work with more familiar sources of energy.

"Mitochondria can break down a wide variety of fuels," Dr Minteer explained.

"That means it can handle fuel mixtures that you might see in, say, an energy drink or a protein shake."

Professor Atanassov told BBC News that the work was a "seminal achievement for biotechnology to be able to introduce [cell parts] into technical devices, especially in the context of energy harvesting," but conceded that "whether it will have an immediate practical application remains to be seen".

He said that "with all the acceleration that technology advances give us, things don't happen overnight", observing that it was a full 50 years between the first demonstration of a standard fuel cell and the Gemini space missions that first used them.

"The main contribution for this work is in the fundamental bridging of biotechnology and nanotechnology," he explained.

"It ultimately may lead to the introduction of a whole new domain of fuels that we would never otherwise be able to tap."

I wonder if the price of Red Bull is going to go up now?


Edit To Add Link:
Thanks Aquarius1

[edit on 26-8-2010 by speculativeoptimist]

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 06:55 PM

Thought you might like the link to your post, interesting find.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 07:06 PM
reply to post by Aquarius1

Thank you Aquarius1, and yes, I thought this was cool. The past couple of months numerous energy concepts have emerged that mimmic nature.
I always get excited, thinking things are going to change now, but am consistently disappointed to never hear of these advances again. I know they probably threaten specific industries, and that major change such as switching energy tech will be a slow process. I grow impatient and therefore am grateful when Science throws a bone of hope. I do think we will eventually witness a revolution in green energy, I just hope it's sooner than later.


posted on Aug, 27 2010 @ 02:17 PM
reply to post by speculativeoptimist

You're welcome, I understand what you are saying, I tend not to get to excited anymore, anything that is good for the populace or could save us a buck is suppressed sadly enough, shaking my head.

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