Spoonfuls of Sugar Could Soon Power Devices

Researchers have developed a new high-density sugar battery.

Virginia Tech researchers Zhiguang Zhu, left, and Y.H. Percival Zhang show off the sugar battery they developed in January 2014. The battery, which is refillable and biodegradable, could one day power cell phones and other electronic devices, they said, cutting down on toxic waste from conventional batteries.
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Pour some sugar on your cellphone.

Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a new battery that runs on sugar, one they say would be refillable, biodegradable, and cheaper than its conventional counterparts.

These sweet dreams, they said, could become reality in as few as three years.

[READ: Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Charger for Smartphones, Gadgets, Showcased at CES]

"Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature," associate professor Y.H. Percival Zhang, who led the study, said in a statement posted to the science news website Eurekalert. "It's only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery."

Scientists have built sugar batteries before, but Zhang's appears to be the first with enough energy to one day power tablets, smartphones, and other gadgets.

It works like a fuel cell, combining air with maltodextrine, which is made from starch, to generate electricity. And as with hydrogen fuel cells, water is the main by-product.

[ALSO: D.C. Full of Gassy Leaks, Researchers Say]

If ultimately successful, Zhang and his research partner, Zhiguang Zhu said that the battery ultimately "could help keep hundreds of thousands of tons of [conventional toxic] batteries from ending up in landfills."

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