Innovation That Matters

Origami biobattery is powered by dirty water

Sport & Fitness

Researchers have developed a disposable biobattery shaped like a ninja star, which can provide power out in the field for up to 20 minutes.

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Researchers at Binghampton University have developed a disposable biobattery shaped like a ninja star, which can provide power to small devices for up to 20 minutes using only a few drops of dirty water. When opened up, the eight modules of the USD 0.75 origami battery connect. Then, once dirty water is added, the bacteria powers a process of bacterial metabolism, which creates a small amount of electricity. This power can then be used in the field to run LEDs or small medical devices such as pregnancy tests and HIV tests.


The ninja star battery is an adaptation of another paper-based design, created by the same team at the New York university. The new version, a 2.5 inch wide star-shaped frame, has increased power and voltage. Each module contains within its paper layers, an anode, an air-cathode and a proton exchange membrane. To use, individuals pull apart the folds creating fluidic pathways that connect the sections, exposing the cathodes to the air. Then, they feed a few drops of dirty water into an inlet in the centre. The water travels down the pathways into the cells and prompts the chemical reaction, which in turn produces electricity.

The devices are more sensitive than purely paper-based versions, while still being cheap and convenient enough to be used by medical testers and researchers in the field. What other uses are there for accessible bio-batteries?


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