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Biotech Earth Power Hardware

Algae Could Be the Key To Ultra-Thin Batteries 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the green-power-that's-actually-green dept.
MikeChino writes "Algae is often touted as the next big thing in biofuels, but the slimy stuff could also be the key to paper-thin biodegradable batteries, according to researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden. Uppsala researcher Maria Stromme and her team has found that the smelly algae species that clumps on beaches, known as Cladophora, can also be used to make a type of cellulose that has 100 times the surface area of cellulose found in paper. That means it can hold enough conducting polymers to effectively recharge and hold electricity for long amounts of time. Eventually, the bio batteries could compete with commercial lithium-ion batteries."
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Algae Could Be the Key To Ultra-Thin Batteries

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  • green tech (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:11PM (#30252106)
    i wish other industries could make such wild claims and have everyone believe them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by greentshirt (1308037)
      I don't understand why he gets modded troll for this comment, he's right.

      I'm tired of reading incredible claims that are just not justified by the science.

      When it's done by easy to hate industries like big pharma or big oil, we all jump on it, we should show the sobriety required to do the same when it's from friendlier industries. If anything, these claims hurt the industry by setting up unreal expectations and eventually earning it a reputation of big promises that never deliver.
      • Re:green tech (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ushering05401 (1086795) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:48PM (#30252266) Journal

        He's modded troll because he is projecting some sort of faith in these press releases on to the rest of us. Reading green tech/energy content is kinda like reading optimistic sci-fi - you know - gee, wouldn't it be nice.

        Even if the tech is viable, the IP situation in the Western World dictates a long road from conceptualization to delivery. Simply having a story posted doesn't mean anyone is buying into it... Just means we won't be as surprised as everyone else if it turns out to work.

        • I dont think he meant everyone as "everyone on slashdot" but everyone as in "everyone in the media and public"
        • by skine (1524819)

          Even if the tech is viable, the IP situation in the Western World dictates a long road from conceptualization to delivery. Simply having a story posted doesn't mean anyone is buying into it... Just means we won't be as surprised as everyone else if it turns out to work.

          So... Just like every other technology-related article on Slashdot?

      • I don't get the troll mod either. The GP is, however, wrong in thinking that other industries don't get to make such wild claims and have people believe them. Take, for example, the fast food industry. The claim they make is on all those billboards showing a delicious, luscious burger and fries. The reality is quite different. Or the politician industry whose members make incredible claims, which people seem to actually believe, and then deliver something quite different altogether. And of course there is t
      • It seems to me that apart from the headline the only objectionable sentence is this:

        The key to this new battery turned out to be an often bothersome green algae known as Cladophora.

        The rest of TFA is speculative and, to my mind anyway, worth the 30 seconds it took to read. Without this one definitive sentence claiming this as more than a new thread to follow, it's just a piece about a potential new avenue into cellulose batteries.

        While I definitely agree that bold claims do hurt their industries with unreal expectations, I know I usually am more forgiving than I would be to large industries like

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      MRAM, "Spintronics" and Quantum Computers, Inkjet-printable circuit boards, anything involving carbon nanotubes...

      "Green tech" is hardly the only industry guilty of making wild claims.

      But hey, why not take the opportunity to take a pot shot as those pesky environmentalists, eh? If anything, it's always worth a few modpoints here on Slashdot...

      • by timmarhy (659436)
        fail. carbon nanotubes and printable circuit boards have atleast been produced in a lab. they aren't far fetched at all, and they aren't constantly claiming they will "save the world".
        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          Yeah, bullshit, buddy. Nanotubes are touted as next generation batteries, circuit boards, solar cells, bullet proof armor, space elevator cables, and god knows what else. They're practically a magical panacea if you believe researchers.

          As for printable circuit boards, yup, you got me there. They're manufactured in the lab... kinda like algae-based power sources.

    • It's almost as if scientists are pressured by universities to make long-term claims in understandable language, rather than precise short-term claims in technical language. Kind of like it is part of their mission to promote public understanding of science, and one of the criteria they are considered on when funding is allocated.

      But if you have an axe to grind against "green tech" then go ahead and pretend it is unique to science with environmental impact.

    • Re:green tech (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Interoperable (1651953) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @11:53AM (#30254820)
      It's usually not the industry/scientists' fault. It's the science journalists. They're the ones who take good research that's making cautiously optimistic projections for the possibilities of new technologies and turn it into "Scientists say they invented new technology that will abrogate our responsibilities!"
  • Key word... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Eventually". And that assumes that it's economically feasible, of course.
    • "Eventually" in a scientific/Academic context means "You cant prove its imposssible, and I am looking for funding"

      Linguistically, it means "after the current conditions have changed beyond all recognition, and most probably after I am dead and cant be blamed for getting it wrong". It does not mean "technically feasible in the near future" in any context what ever. It is a term used to imply that this is not news, and can safely be ignored here.

  • BSG (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kethinov (636034) on Friday November 27, 2009 @11:44PM (#30252256) Homepage Journal

    Sweet! So that means when we find the Algae Planet, it'll solve our food AND fuel problems! Why steal Tylium from the Cylons when you've got algae?

    • no we need that planet to dial the Destiny

    • I was thinking next we'll be hearing about biogenic weapons made from algae. When will it end?!?

      • by Dekker3D (989692)
        lots of surface area means it'd burn quickly, if it's made of a substance that'll burn in the first place. it's algae... i think it will. flamethrower fuel or new type of fire bomb? soak it in some kind of oxidizer, and you'll have quite a flash fire.
        • Cladophora grows in my garden pond and it pretty amazing actually (once you get past the annoying as hell part [wikipedia.org]), once it sticks to something and dries that's it it almost impossible to get off and strong as hell. Thinking along your lines, I'd go with Solid Rocket motors. I've always thought it might make a really interesting paper.

    • Re:BSG (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 28, 2009 @12:37AM (#30252486)
      ...can also be used to make a type of cellulose that has 100 times the surface area of cellulose found in paper. Not to mention the super-absorbent toilet paper we could make.
  • A few years back I remember hearing about a bacteria that was being breed to produce electricity. It ate really nutrient-rich mucky dirt and produced electricity, and the structure of the bacteria was similar to a nerve cell branching out to other cells and carrying the current. They were trying to make a battery out of it. But for the life of me I could only find stubs of articles on it, and nothing that said anything about viability or even gave a measure of what has been achieved. Anyone else heard a
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Did you flunk Conspiracy 101? It was suppressed by Big Oil (TM) - just like this current one will be.

    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @01:20AM (#30252630) Journal

      Geobacter [wikipedia.org] Is capable of doing precisely what you describe. The bacterium extends electrode like pili into its environment and degrading various materials ranging from hydrocarbons to Uranium salts. However, Geobacter creates an electrical current in a very different way than these algae batteries would. The algae battery looks like it uses the cellulose as a supportive structure in rather than using biological processes to generate an electrical potential.

  • This sounds like the first step in human batteries, ala The Matrix.

    • by paul248 (536459)

      Don't even bother trying to find a connection between reality and The Matrix. The machines already had fusion power.

      • Not to mention that "The Matrix" human batteries would run afoul of the laws of thermodynamics - you simply could not make a human being generate more electrical energy than it takes to keep them alive.
        • And of course the machines would just have had to send solar power stations into space to get as much solar energy as they want, even with a darkened sky. Not that whatever they used to darken the sky would have remained in the atmosphere for very long time. And even if there's no way to harness solar power any more, there's still geothermal energy.

          Of course only very stupid humans would block all sunlight from Earth. Because unlike machines, our energy ultimately comes to 100% from the sun. Not to forget t

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The humans were originally meant to be the compute nodes upon which the matrix ran, but that plotline was deemed to be too complicated and metaphysical for mainstream audiences, plus it didn't provide an opportunity to milk some product placement dollars out of Duracell.

  • Could be (Score:4, Insightful)

    by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @03:42AM (#30253110)
    Well, anything could be the key to ultra-thin batteries. Wake me up when you find the thing that is the key...
  • Not really a battery (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Saturday November 28, 2009 @04:25AM (#30253230)

    The device they came up with is more like a supercapacitor, but it still pretty good.
    I believe that the real breakthrough in electrochemical energy storage technology will not be in greater energy density from new materials, but in cheaper alternatives from organic systems.
    When their performance degrades too much we can safely toss them, make compost and start over.

    A couple of examples:

    http://gcep.stanford.edu/pdfs/Y0NOS1cDbWD509Q0m5Reyw/Symposium2009Poster_Joaquin_Geng.pdf [stanford.edu]
    http://www.nec.co.jp/techrep/en/r_and_d/a05/a05-no3/a262.pdf [nec.co.jp]

    Disclaimer: I work in battery research so I firmly believe that batteries, and not fuel cells, will save us. So don't even go there.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Saturday November 28, 2009 @08:18AM (#30253854)

    But what about the polymers that they are coated in??

  • they will spend billions developing this tech, then they wont be allowed to use it because charging the batteries would be torture to a living creature. PETA will have a field day.
  • I also suppose "eventually" is 10 years out? Where have we heard this before? Oh, that's right, we've heard this everywhere before! Clean cheap cold fusion reactors are 10 years away. Self-aware AI is 10 years away. Mass-produced flying cars are 10 years away. Room-temperature superconductors are 10 years away.
    If I was smart I'd've filed for a patent on the idea of claiming a new technology was "just 10 years away", then neither I nor the next 7 generations of my descendants would ever have to work!

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