Bacteria Batteries

Fitness trackers, VR, AI….oh my!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Today wearable tech is EVERYWHERE. Typically, these products are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, these are bad for the environment, and require frequent recharging. Is there an alternative?

Xiaomeng Liu and team from the University of Massachusetts have an idea.

They use bacteria that NATURALLY produce electricity! The team shaped these microbes into a sticky, paper-thin layer called a biofilm. Then they etched tiny circuits into it with lasers and sandwiched it between electricity-conducting mesh. 

The final product is clear, flexible, and wearable. Once on, it can power a device using the wearer’s SWEAT! How? The bacteria harness energy produced from evaporation of moisture on the skin.

These “microbial batteries” are just as powerful as the average battery. They can power wearable biosensors for over EIGHTEEN hours. The inventors hope the results will inspire mass production of bacterial batteries in the near future.

Huh… I guess bacteria is the new black!

Reference: Liu, X., Ueki, T., Gao, H., Woodard, T. L., Nevin, K. P., Fu, T., Fu, S., Sun, L., Lovley, D. R., & Yao, J. (2022). Microbial biofilms for electricity generation from water evaporation and power to wearables. Nature Communications, 13(1).