Chemists have created prototype batteries that run on any sugar solution, including juice or flat soda.
If scientists at St. Louis University have their way, you may soon be sharing that morning glass of OJ with your cell phone. Chemists there have developed a battery that runs on sugar, from soft drinks to tree sap. Living things have been using sugar for fuel over a billion years. Now scientists have taken a tip from biology and engineered batteries that contain enzymes that convert sugar into electricity. The researchers used their battery, which was about the size of a postage stamp, to run a handheld calculator. And they powered the thing using sweetened drink mixes, tree sap, even plain old sugar water. Soda works too, but it has to be flat, because carbonation doesn’t help. In addition to providing juice for cell phones, mp3 players and, of course, calculators, sugar batteries could allow soldiers to charge their electronics on the battlefield, a possibility that interested the Defense Department enough to fund the studies. If only the professor on Gilligan’s Island had had access to this technology. (Clip from Gilligan’s Island. Professor: “Your discovery may well be instrumental in securing for us deliverance from our enforced isolation.”) Although Gilligan would have undoubtedly consumed the coconut milk that powered the transmitter just as the rescue plane flew by. (Clip from Gilligan’s Island. Professor: “Now, there’s one more thing you can do to make this experiment a complete success.” Skipper: “What’s that, professor?” Professor: “Take Gilligan outside.”)