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Smartphone batteries from beer?

Posted on 31 January 2017.

In Colorado, university researchers have developed a process to use the wastewater produced during beer-making to make a battery.

With more than 230 breweries and microbreweries, the State of Colorado is one of the leading beer producers in the United States. The production of one barrel of this beverage generates seven barrels of wastewater that has to be treated before being discharged into the sewers. Researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder found the solution that could make this wastewater a natural resource for producing lithium-ion batteries - essential for smartphones, computers and even electric cars.

When fungi become batteries

The process developed by these engineers is simple. They recover the waste from breweries to cultivate a type of bread mold known as Neurospora crassa. So what’s special about it? It particularly thrives in water with high concentrations of sugars, such as those from beer-making. Engineers at the University of Boulder were able to control its growth. Through pyrolysis which heats the material to a temperature of 800°C, they then converted it into a form of carbon required to make a novel lithium-ion battery electrode. For the time being it’s the first generation derived from a natural organic matter – and it’s durable and immediately available.

A natural wastewater cleaner

Neurospora crassa, remember the name! Although it isn’t the first attempt to produce energy from beer, this fungus could become very famous. In addition to providing an abundance of material capable of producing batteries, it also cleans the wastewater collected from Colorado breweries, which considerably reduces treatment costs. Beer and its resulting waste have some hitherto unsuspected virtues!

Find out more:

- Les drêches, une ressource précieuse pour les brasseurs
- Rainwater beer
- Delicious Californian gray water beer
- Changing bread into beer
- Fungi recycle batteries
- Towards biodegradable graphene-based "super batteries"?

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