Urine-powered battery developed (Update)

Aug 15, 2005

Physicists in Singapore have succeeded in creating the first paper battery that generates electricity from urine. This new battery will be the perfect power source for cheap, disposable healthcare test-kits for diseases such as diabetes. This research is published today in the Institute of Physics’ Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

Scientists in research groups around the world are trying to design ever smaller “biochips” that can test for a variety of diseases at once, give instant results, and, crucially, can be mass produced cheaply. But until now, no one has been able to solve the problem of finding a power source as small and as cheap to fabricate as the detection technology itself.

Led by Dr Ki Bang Lee, a research team at Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a paper battery that is small, cheap to fabricate, and which ingeniously uses the fluid being tested (urine) as the power source for the device doing the testing.

The chemical composition of urine is widely used as a way of testing for tell-tale signs of various diseases and also as an indicator of a person’s general state of health. The concentration of glucose in urine is a useful diagnostic tool for diabetics. The lead researcher, Dr Lee, envisions a world where people will easily be able to monitor their health at home using disposable test-kits that don’t need lithium batteries or external power sources.

Dr. Lee said: “We are striving to develop cheap, disposable credit card-sized biochips for disease detection. Our battery can be easily integrated into such devices, supplying electricity upon contact with biofluids such as urine.”

The battery unit is made from a layer of paper that is steeped in copper chloride (CuCl) and sandwiched between strips of magnesium and copper. This “sandwich” is then held in place by being laminated, which involves passing the battery unit between a pair of transparent plastic films through a heating roller at 120ºC. The final product has dimensions of 60 mm x 30 mm, and a thickness of just 1 mm (a little bit smaller than a credit card).

Writing in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Lee describes how the battery was created and quantifies its performance. Using 0.2 ml of urine, they generated a voltage of around 1.5 V with a corresponding maximum power of 1.5 mW. They also found that the battery performances (such as voltage, power or duration) may be designed or adjusted by changing the geometry or materials used.

“Our urine-activated battery would be integrated into biochip systems for healthcare diagnostic applications,” says Lee. He envisions a world where people will easily be able to monitor their health at home, seeking medical attention only when necessary. “These fully-integrated biochip systems have a huge market potential,” adds Lee.

Explore further: Showing 'The Interview' is part of Google's long-term YouTube plan

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists light the way for future electronic devices

Nov 17, 2014

Researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton have demonstrated how glass can be manipulated to create electronic devices that will be smaller, faster and consume ...

A billion holes can make a battery

Nov 10, 2014

Researchers at the University of Maryland have invented a single tiny structure that includes all the components of a battery that they say could bring about the ultimate miniaturization of energy storage ...

Yale engineer to build 'hot' solar cells

Sep 22, 2014

Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 degrees Fahrenheit. ...

The future's most pressing energy questions

Jul 16, 2014

Top researchers, entrepreneurs, scholars, and policymakers from Massachusetts and Switzerland convened at Northeastern University on Friday for an energy summit, where participants discussed innovations and ...

Recommended for you

N. Korea suffers another Internet shutdown

19 hours ago

North Korea suffered an Internet shutdown for at least two hours on Saturday, Chinese state-media and cyber experts said, after Pyongyang blamed Washington for an online blackout earlier this week.

Sony's PlayStation 'gradually coming back'

19 hours ago

Sony was still struggling Saturday to fully restore its online PlayStation system, three days after the Christmas day hack that also hit Microsoft's Xbox, reporting that services were "gradually coming back."

Chattanooga touts transformation into Gig City

19 hours ago

A city once infamous for the smoke-belching foundries that blanketed its buildings and streets with a heavy layer of soot is turning to lightning-fast Internet speeds to try to transform itself into a vibrant ...

Uber broke Indian financial rules: central bank chief

19 hours ago

India's central bank chief lashed out at Uber, already under fire over the alleged rape of a passenger, saying the US taxi-hailing firm violated the country's financial regulations by using an overseas payment ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.