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Power from Paper

December 23, 2011

Rheanna Sand

Being a technophile is easy. But being an environmentalist is hard. If I could have my geeky Christmas wish, it would be to love technology AND the Earth at the same time… which makes Sony Corporation look a lot like Santa this year!

 

 

That’s because the electronics behemoth has invented a battery that uses shredded paper and cardboard as fuel. At the Eco-Products conference in Tokyo last week, Sony representatives unveiled their new bio-batteries, which work by hijacking the biology of termites. These insects can eat houses because they can break down cellulose, a tough polymer found in wood and paper products. The enzyme responsible for this ability is called cellulase, found in their saliva and digestive system. Cellulase breaks strands of cellulose down into many single glucose molecules:

 


 

Glucose, or simple sugar, is a viable source of electrons once combined with oxygen and a few other enzymes. This is evident by the fact that we can survive off nothing but twinkies and air if we had to. Glucose metabolism is one of the basic biochemical processes of life. We use sugar for electrons, which are used to build other large molecules in our cells.

In this case, Sony has proved that you can tear up an old newspaper, shake it up in some liquid with enzymes, and run a small fan with the resulting power. They say that the bio-battery could be powerful enough to run an MP3 player, but haven’t said when such a product would be ready for the market.

 

Look, they've even got androids using them!


But with the prospect of a commercially available battery that uses waste as fuel, and produces water as waste, I plead with Sony Santa: make it soon!

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