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An origami bacteria-powered battery

Posted on 24 September 2015.

An American researcher has developed a foldable bio-battery that costs only $0.05. Powered by bacteria, it is an economical solution ideal for remote areas with limited resources.

What child has not excitedly looked at a piece of paper and in the hope of making an airplane, makeshift certainly, but that can fly? But now if some bacteria are added to the surface of a sheet of paper sprayed with nickel, it will turn into a battery and then, once folded, will fit in a matchbox! The idea was born in the laboratories of the University of Binghamton (United States), under the microscope of Seokheun "Sean" Choi. To design the pocket-sized battery the scientist used origami, an ancient folding technique from Asia which already has a lot of followers in the overseas research community. They use the technique to create connected objects and clothes, flexible smartphone batteries, and even contortionist micro-robots.

A drop of dirty water and 5 cents to produce electricity

Using origami techniques, the foldable batteries can be connected together to increase the amount of power generated. No more connections in series or parallel that take up enormous amounts of space! And it’s an environmentally friendly invention too. Made of recycled paper, it doesn’t use pollutant nanomaterials such as cobalt dioxide and lithium derivatives or metals that have to be extracted - like lead, iron, aluminum or magnesium. The electric current is produced by bacteria that live in the few drops of water necessary for the battery to work. Result: at a cost of 5 cents, according to its designer, this green technology can generate electricity where there is none. In the process, Sean Choi also wants to create a biosensor also designed using paper. It would be self-powered thanks to the few microwatts produced by its bio-battery, and could be used to identify disease in a few drops of blood. A device designed for emergency screening during a health crisis for less than a dollar. 100 times less than a single test for Ebola.