Here’s one for potato lovers: the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has developed a solid organic electric battery that uses potatoes for energy. The simple, sustainable device, they say in a press announcement, could provide an immediate electricity solution in off-grid locations in the developing world.
Scientific backing for the invention was published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy: “The ability to provide electrical power with such simple and natural means could benefit millions of people in the developing word, literally bringing light and telecommunication to their life in areas currently lacking electrical infrastructure,” said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, the University’s tech transfer arm.
How it works:
Researchers discovered that the enhanced salt bridge capability of treated potato tubers can generate electricity through means readily available in the developing world. This cheap, easy to use green power source could substantially improve the quality of life of 1.6 billion people, comprising 32% of the developing non-OECD populations, currently lacking access to electrical infrastructure.
Such a source can provide important needs, such as lighting, telecommunication, and information transfer.
In their research, they discovered a new way to construct an efficient battery using zinc and copper electrodes and a slice of your every day potato. The scientists discovered that the simple action of boiling the potato prior to use in electrolysis, increases electric power up to 10 fold over the untreated potato and enables the battery to work for days and even weeks.
The scientific basis of the finding is related to the reduction in the internal salt bridge resistance of the potato battery, which is exactly how engineers are trying to optimize the performance of conventional batteries. The ability to produce and utilize low power electricity was demonstrated by LEDs powered by treated potato batteries.
Cost analyses showed that the treated potato battery generates energy, which is five to 50 folds cheaper than commercially available 1.5 Volt D cells and Energizer E91 cells, respectively.
The clean light powered by this green battery is also at least 6 times more economical than kerosene lamps often used in the developing world.
This means that the boiled potato or other similarly treated vegetables could provide an immediate, environmental friendly and inexpensive solution to many of the low power energy needs in areas of the world lacking access to electrical infrastructure.