Origami Paper-based Batteries Powered By Microbes and May Only Cost a Nickel

These origami paper-based batteries leverage the mechanical and electronic properties of a simple folded battery circuit dipped into dirty water. And successes with this research at Binghamton University in New York point to a range of possibilities for affordable, microbial-powered electronics in the near future. (Particularly for disease control and prevention in the developing world.)

From IEEE Spectrum:

Origami’s role in the battery design comes into play with the folding of two-dimensional sheets to create a three-dimensional battery structure that is about the size of a matchbook. The air-breathing cathode was produced by spraying nickel onto one side of a typical piece of paper. The anode is screen printed with carbon paints. The bacteria-laced water was added into a folded battery stack. In operation, this stack is unfolded, exposing all the cathodes to the air, maximizing their cathodic reactions. The point of developing this simple battery was to find a way to power a separate paper-based biosensor without depending on an external handheld device to run the analysis. Choi believes that the simple battery he and his colleagues have developed can produce the microwatts required to run a biosensor in a self-contained system. This simple, self-contained device should prove particularly useful in remote locations where resources—especially money—are limited; the entire device would cost only five cents.

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Matt Griffin
Matt Griffin


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