Engineers at the University of New York have designed a paper battery powered by bacteria that not only generates electricity, but also self-decomposes at the end of the battery life. The new technology works by alternating the cellulose material in paper that can be combined with organic and biological matter such as bacteria. The bacteria, which is freeze-dried, can be activated with saliva or water, and works through a process of respiration and activating a series of knock-on reactions. Currently, it has a fairly low current and a shelf life of only four months. However, engineers and researchers are working to expand both capacities in order for the batteries to be scaled up and put into use for commercial purposes.
The lithium-based batteries manufactured to date have several negative environmental impacts, such as high energy manufacture process and potentially toxic waste chemicals being created. The new paper-based batteries powered by bacteria are promising to not only be a low cost, environmentally friendly alternative, but may enable new applications and uses such as within healthcare, transports and more. The possibility of such batteries to also be able to biodegrade safely back into water or soil also has the added benefit of lack of waste being created. Is this novel intersection between technology engineering and biological processes going to become the next new innovation that changes our connectivity patterns and how information is used? Are there any drawbacks to combining such new approaches? Or should we be investing in more such solutions?