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Mitochondria fuel cells could be powered by soda pop

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August 26, 2010

Diagram of a mitochondrion, like those used in the mitochondria biofuel cell

Diagram of a mitochondrion, like those used in the mitochondria biofuel cell

In Back to the Future, the Mr. Fusion cold fusion device could produce electricity from food scraps. Well, cold fusion is still some ways off (depending on who you talk to), but powering electronics with food may not be. Shelley Minteer, a Professor of Chemistry at Saint Louis University in Missouri, announced this Wednesday the development of a biofuel cell that could be powered by sugars or fats like those found in soda pop or vegetable oil. The device incorporates mitochondria, which are found within the cells of our own bodies, where they serve to produce energy from ingested calories. Are you listening, Doc Brown?

In their creation of the first-ever mitochondria biofuel cell, Minteer and her St. Louis team sandwiched a thin layer of mitochondria between two electrodes, one of which was gas-permeable. In a living organism, mitochondria use a chemical called pyruvate, formed from the digestion of sugar and fats, to produce another substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which stores energy until the body needs it. They perform a similar function in the biofuel cell, which has successfully produced electricity using sugar and cooking oil byproducts as fuel.

"This is the first demonstration of a new class of biofuel cells," said Minteer. "When further developed, these devices have the potential for replacing disposable and rechargeable batteries in a wide variety of consumer electronics and other products. It is the first such device based on one of the microscopic parts of the billions upon billions of cells that make up the body."

Scientists have designed other types of biofuel cells in the recent past, including ones that produce electricity via enzymes and bacteria.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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4 Comments

now we need a more efficient way of producing sugar or cooking oil.

perhaps if the plantations used bio-char(search it here on gizmag if you haven't read it)

and newer farming techniques combined with other renewable energy sources( depending on the region) powering the farm, we could perhaps find a new source of safe energy.

maybe someday....

bio-power jeff
27th August, 2010 @ 03:43 am PDT

Even better if they'd be able to engineer this cell to process raw materials, so we don't need to produce sugar and cooking oil, but just feed it ANY kind of bio-matter.

BoilingOil
27th August, 2010 @ 07:04 am PDT

It just proves what I have been saying all along, "we are all human dynamos"

Michael Halpin
27th August, 2010 @ 11:27 am PDT

Cold Fusion... hhhmmm... been around many years... the question is, who will be the bravest to introduce it commercially?. Just imagine the possibilties of this process. It could be used like a mini on-board power substation, that feeds electrical power to cars, planes, homes, electrical consumerables, the list goes on... without no harmful exhausts/waste!

There's a brave new world or was it an old world discovery about to go to the masses?.

Harpal Sahota
27th August, 2010 @ 06:00 pm PDT
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