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Japan Power Hardware Technology

Sugar Batteries Could Store 20% More Energy Than Li-Ions 152

Posted by timothy
from the sweet-deal dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the Tokyo University of Science have developed a way to create sugar batteries that store 20% more energy than lithium-ion cells. Before it can be used as the anode in a sodium-ion battery, sucrose powder is turned into hard carbon powder by heating it to up to 1,500 degrees celsius in an oxygen-free oven." Except that swapping batteries might be a bit tricky, I can think of a perfect application for these.
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Sugar Batteries Could Store 20% More Energy Than Li-Ions

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  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:24PM (#41495189)

    And I ain't li-on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:24PM (#41495195)

    So... there's no actual sugar in it, just a carbon/sodium anode. So why call it a sugar battery? Pure asshattery of course!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Could be worse. If the researcher was within 1000KM of a 3D printer then the /. geeks would loudly claim that we can now 3D print batteries. Worst of all, if there was a story about Mars or Elon Musk in the last week, the story would have been about how sugar batteries will help private space tourists to colonize Mars.

      Think I'm exaggerating?

      • OMG! You mean scientists can now 3D print batteries to fly to Mars? I have to publish a science article on it right away!
    • So... there's no actual sugar in it, just a carbon/sodium anode. So why call it a sugar battery? Pure asshattery of course!

      It's in the same realm as calling coal fired plants "plant and/or solar" powered. In a way they're correct, but it comes off as an engineered distortion.

    • by shione (666388)

      Wouldn't that make them pure assbattery?

    • by guttentag (313541)

      So... there's no actual sugar in it, just a carbon/sodium anode. So why call it a sugar battery?

      So everyone can have a good laugh when New York City bans them [nytimes.com].

    • And this surprises you coming from a Gawker site, why? They wouldn't know real original reporting if it took down their site.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      So... there's no actual sugar in it, just a carbon/sodium anode. So why call it a sugar battery? Pure asshattery of course!

      Well...if you'd read the article you'd know they get the carbon from sugar.

      Or is that why you post AC?

  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:25PM (#41495211)
    "Hey! were's my cell phone?! Those ants are taking it! STOP!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:25PM (#41495213)

    If you carbonize it, it's no longer sugar. You could probably use a host of other substances for the same purpose besides sucrose.

  • Sugar my butt ... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by gewalker (57809)

    Carbon / Sodium battery not sugar battery. Must be just like Spenda -- We processed sugar so that it is no longer sugar, so we can make a stupid claim that gets your attention because you are fooled into thinking it is somehow made of sugar.

  • by ChronoReverse (858838) on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:28PM (#41495235)
    It seems to me pretty disingenuous to say that the batteries are using sugar when it's really just carbon powder (which can be made from sugar).

    But we're not talking sugar straight out of the paper packet. Before it can be used as the anode in a sodium-ion battery, sucrose powder is turned into hard carbon powder by heating it to up to 1,500 degrees celsius in an oxygen-free oven

    • So one wonders what the effect would be of using a more pure form of carbon.
      • by spauldo (118058)

        The price would go up, which defeats the point of using sugar in the first place.

        No idea from the scientific point of view. The article wasn't aimed at a technical audience.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Not really. You could probably get carbon from coal cheaply enough. Especially with many countries no longer using coal from power plants and such. Carbon is not a rare element by any means. There's probably much cheaper ways to get carbon powder than heating up sugar to 1500 degrees. I really don't know how similar it is to what they are using, but graphite powder [amazon.com] is pretty cheap. If you're actually using it produce batteries, the bulk price is even cheaper [alibaba.com]. Only about 20 cents a pound.
          • by spauldo (118058)

            Coal probably wouldn't work. It contains impurities that would need to be removed. That's why steel was traditionally smelted with charcoal.

            Also, bear in mind that this is a university project, not a factory. They can just send an undergrad to the market to pick up sugar. I'm not sure what the price there is (I never bought sugar when I lived there, since I ate at the chow hall and can't drink coffee), but they grow sugar cane in Okinawa and probably don't have the price fixing that sugar has in America

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          From TFA:

          In reality, there are many raw materials that can be turned into carbon in a similar fashion, but the advantage to using sugar is that's it's practically an unlimited resource.

          Sugar can be produced exceedingly cheap.

          If you can take something that's cheap to produce like sugar and turn that into electricity, then you have cheap, renewable electricity.

          Judging by how cheap rum is in Cuba (who make some fantastic rum for those of you who can't go there), growing sugar isn't exactly taxing. Let the sun

          • by spauldo (118058)

            Cane sugar isn't the same thing as what you get in the bag. It has to be refined first. Raw sugar cane wouldn't have any advantage over other biomass for making pure carbon.

            Concerning energy production, sugar cane is one of the few places where ethanol fuel makes sense. In Brazil they estimate they get 1.3 times the energy from ethanol than they put into producing it. That's a much better figure than corn ethanol, which is an energy loss.

            As far as growing sugarcane not being taxing - I've seen sugarcane

    • It seems to me pretty disingenuous to say that the batteries are using sugar when it's really just carbon powder (which can be made from sugar).

      Yeah, but see, the people who actually did make these batteries... they used sugar to do it. It really doesn't matter worth a flying fuck what they "could" have done, it's still not disingenous to report on what they did.

  • So wait, people, I've got an idea for taking the protons, electrons, and neutrons in Sugar(!) and rearranging groups of 144 neutrons and 94 protons and combining them into a new configuration which is Pu-238 ( plutonium 238 [wikipedia.org]) and use them to create a super-duper new battery that has even more energy density!

    If they can argue that carbonizing C_6 H_12 O_6 into carbon with high temperature still allows them to call it a "sugar battery", I argue that my elemental alchemist's transformation into plutonium can a

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday September 28, 2012 @08:12PM (#41495569) Homepage

      If they can argue that carbonizing C_6 H_12 O_6 into carbon with high temperature still allows them to call it a "sugar battery", I argue that my elemental alchemist's transformation into plutonium can also be called a sugar battery.

      If you can actually do it, then by all means, patent your nuclear sugar battery.

      It's the making it that's the hard part.

      Hell, TFA even says "In reality, there are many raw materials that can be turned into carbon in a similar fashion, but the advantage to using sugar is that's it's practically an unlimited resource."

      If you can make plutonium out of sugar, then I bet you'll be a rich man, because gold would be trivial.

      • I was commenting on the humor of still calling it sugar, not making light of the achievement of using sugar to heat. Carbon is actually fairly cheap to find without any attached hydrogens or oxygens. It's so abundant that we take the output of coal mines and just burn it for energy. Anyway, the comments about "Alchemy" should have given away the joking tone about rearranging subatomic particles.
      • Also, a ton of sugar would cost a lot more than a ton of coal. The amount of coal is so abundant still that the market price of it is lower than the cost of raising sugar-cane or sugar-beets and refining them into sugar.

        a ton of coal costs from $30 per 2000 lbs in Y2K upto $150 per 2000 lbs in the year 2008, and about $30-$50 per ton in May of 2012.

        a ton of sugar would cost about $600 with the world price of sugar at less than 60 cents per kilogram.

      • by Alioth (221270)

        Well, perhaps not - if it became public how to transmute sugar into gold, immediately the price of gold would crash and it would be no more valuable than aluminum or iron.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:39PM (#41495311) Homepage

    In America, first you get the sugar then you get the power, then you get the women.

  • Battery tech is growing fast. I saw a PBS show on research that has a pretty good grasp of how to replicate plantlife's ability to convrrt sunlight into sugars. The batteries based on this are already providing all the needs of mid-sized office buildings.
  • > Except that swapping batteries might be a bit tricky,

    Apple would like to get behind this wonderful new technology. Now we must find a judge who will let us patent Sugar. Muhahahahah!
  • by smoothnorman (1670542) on Friday September 28, 2012 @07:55PM (#41495449)
    ...that a fat (based) battery could store 9/4ths of the energy than a "sugar battery" does. (fat: 9kcal/mol sugar: 4kcal/mol)
    • I'm not fat, I just got the extended battery!

    • Can we artificially produce fat?
      If not, perhaps this is a solution to the obesity epidemic. Companies will *pay* you for lyposuction and then use the byproduct to make power :-)

  • Except that swapping batteries might be a bit sticky.

    FTFY.

  • Title says it all (sorry, I couldn't resist)
  • Uh ... No. (Score:5, Informative)

    by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Friday September 28, 2012 @08:18PM (#41495601) Homepage

    First, regarding the so-called sugar battery;
    It's really a sodium-ion battery.
    They claim a 20% increase in power storage over a lithium-ion, which probably means a 20% decrease in cost, best case.
    Sodium-ion batteries have cycle problems - after about 50 charge/discharges, they typically have 50% of their original capacity. They don't even talk about this, so I'm betting they haven't solved the problem.

    Second, about lithium-ion batteries;
    Lithium isn't rare - you could extract it from sea water for about 3 times what it costs now. Even at that price it wouldn't mean much to lithium-ion batteries, because despite the name, lithium isn't the primary ingredient, nor is it the most costly.

    Envia's breakthrough battery [nytimes.com] is a lot better at 3 times the energy density and half the cost, and it's a lot closer to market.

    • I can't help but notice Envia's major investor is General Motors. After what they did to their production all-electric cars, and given that Tesla is a competitor, I have a feeling the Envia battery will vanish without a trace for 20 years, until the patents expire.

      • I think that there's more to it than just Arpa-E and the feds preventing burial, I think that it's also that there's too much non-car interest and research in battery tech - cell phones, laptops, etc...

        Plus, conspiracies aside, you have to remember GM is a car company - it wants to sell cars. It's not an oil company looking to sell fuel it pulled out of the ground. If it can sell an EV for a profit, it'll do so. If it's the only one who can produce economical EVs, it stands to make a killing.

        For that mat

        • You're making the same fatal mistake that economists have been making since economics was invented (and is the reason why everything an economist says is absolutely worthless bullshit). You assume rational self-interest, in all things. Have you not heard about the fate of the EV-1? It was profitable, so by definition it was already economical, at least in the twisted economics of pure capitalism, so why wasn't it mass-produced a decade ago? Why was every single leased EV-1 (and they were all leased) tak

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            Have you not heard about the fate of the EV-1? It was profitable, so by definition it was already economical, at least in the twisted economics of pure capitalism, so why wasn't it mass-produced a decade ago?

            Define profitable. It's my understanding that GM only produced it to placate California, and lost it's proverbial shorts on every sale, even with the rebates.

            The reason is GM may be a car company, but it does things for irrational reasons, because it is run by people. And people do stuff that makes no sense.

            It's not just GM though. You'd think that one of the hundreds of car companies out there would be making a killing producing EVs if it was possible to do so profitably.

            Because the patents for nickel-metal hydride batteries were owned by Standard Oil, and they sued. And won.

            A 'quick googling' suggests you need to adjust your aluminum foil hat and go back and reread the stuff again. Standard Oil hasn't been around for a while, it was Chevron. Still, this

            • GM never sold a single EV-1. They refused to make them available for sale. They only leased them. Whether or not they were profitable to manufacture is an argument. GM says they weren't, but bills all the R&D to the few that were made. People claim they were, reading GM's financial statements, as long as the R&D could have been amortized over a larger production run. Not a very strong point, I admit.

              I don't need a goddamn tinfoil hat. I couldn't be bothered to check who it was. Yes, Chevron.

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                GM never sold a single EV-1. They refused to make them available for sale. They only leased them.

                Semantics. They sold leases. Income was still generated, insufficient amounts of income to pay for the production costs, much less R&D.

                I don't need a goddamn tinfoil hat. I couldn't be bothered to check who it was. Yes, Chevron. Thanks for nothing for the snide correction after you verified the basis of what I said.

                At least I checked, right? To continue to be snide - I Didn't say tinfoil. Said Aluminum.(/pedantic) Yes, you mentioned California in your post, but I must of missed it, and I consider the 'flavor' of our usage to be different - you seemed to imply that they were going

    • 1: Sodium is trivially extracted from seawater, so that component just came down by 90%

      2: If you watch the video clip, you'll see a glance at a diagram which shows no capacity loss out past 50 cycles (It doesn't show where capacity loss starts). It's towards the end of the clip where they talk about 300mAh/g capacities (cycles aren't mentioned but are on the diagram)

      3: Using pyrolised sugar means the cost of the anode just came down 90%

      4: Using non-toxic (and much cheaper) metals drops the cost even furt

  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday September 28, 2012 @09:07PM (#41495917) Journal

    ....stick your tongue on a nine volt battery...

  • and when battery stops working, you don't throw it away, you just eat it

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "sucrose powder is turned into hard carbon powder by heating it to up to 1,500 degrees celsius in an oxygen-free oven."

    Sounds exactly like my cooking.

  • Coal is significantly cheaper to use as a source of carbon than sugar is, whether you buy it by the short ton (2000 pounds) as a big ol' company, or at the local Bi-Lo or grocery store.

    A ton of sugar would cost a lot more than a ton of coal. [mongabay.com] http://www.mongabay.com/images/commodities/charts/sugar.html [mongabay.com] . The amount of coal is so abundant still that the market price of it is lower than the cost of raising sugar-cane or sugar-beets and refining them into sugar.

    a ton of coal costs from $30 per 2000 lbs in

  • What makes li-ion batteries expensive is not the li, or other chemicals. Likewise, it is not the labor. It is the expense of heating the li up to 1250C. Now, to create these batteries, you have to go to higher temps In addition, it has said nothing about charge cycles.
  • What would you make the anode from K-Ion batteries from?
  • So first they are not sugar batteries, but batteries with anodes made of carbon derived from sugar. Second, the poster feels they will be good for disolvable electronics for the body, but again you are not disolving sugar but some carbonized derivative of sugar which is probably actually toxic to the body.

    Its an epic fail when a \. post doesn't RTFA nor understand the article they are posting.

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