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Sony Technology

Sony Runs Walkman Off Sugar-Based Bio Battery 204

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the sweeeeeet dept.
StonyandCher writes "Sony has created a battery that produces electricity by breaking down sugar. The bio cell, which measures 39 millimeters cubed, delivers 50mW — a world record for such a cell, according to the company. 'In the bio cell sugar-digesting enzymes at the anode extract electrons and hydrogen ions from the glucose. The hydrogen ions pass through a membrane separator to the cathode where they absorb oxygen from the air to produce water as a byproduct. The electrons flow around the circuit outside the device producing the electricity needed to power it.'"
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Sony Runs Walkman Off Sugar-Based Bio Battery

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  • by Bomarc (306716) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:48AM (#20345181) Homepage
    Laptops, cars etc?
    • by dapsychous (1009353) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:49AM (#20345211) Homepage
      I can't wait for the Dell-Biobattery recall: My laptop popped, then began to digest itself on the desk.
      • by omeomi (675045)
        Well, at least you'll still be able to listen to your Ratt cassette on your biobattery-walkman.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553)
          When can we get one with an implant?

          I want to eat candy all day, fuel all my devices with a jack that comes out of my ear, and never get fat.
    • by WED Fan (911325) <akahigeNO@SPAMtrashmail.net> on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:02PM (#20345381) Homepage Journal

      Sony refers to the sugar powered battery as a "Teenager".

      Note: Purchasing teenagers is illegal in every country except Saudia Arabia and Nigeria.

      • by skeevy (926052) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:38PM (#20345907)

        Sony refers to the sugar powered battery as a "Teenager".

        Yes, but it's been conclusively determined that you can't get any useful work out of a "Teenager" no matter how much sugar you feet it.

        Now if you could harness the power that comes from the laser-like glare of contempt they constantly produce, you could probably power a small town...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mr_mischief (456295)
          Oh, you'll get plenty of work out of a teenager on a sugar rush. It just won't necessarily be the work you asked him to do, and might not have any useful end result.
    • This battery can only output 50mW of power. A laptop could easily be consuming 50W when it's rather busy so to satisfy those requirements you would need a thousand of these cells. The article says that the cells are 39mm squared so that would take up a volume of over two cubic feet (somebody check my math on this). Similarly, the size you would need to power a car is also far too large.

      Besides that though, the article makes no mention of how much power the battery actually holds, i.e. who cares if it can put out 50mW if it can only do it for two minutes.
      • If we assume the cubes are 39 mm for all 3 dimensions, each one is 59 cm^3. Therefore, you could fit 1,000 of them in 59,000 cm^3 (2.1 ft^3, agreeing with your calculation), which would be a cube that was 39 cm (1.3 feet) for all 3 dimensions. So yes, a wee bit big.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Arthur B. (806360)
        the article says 39 milimiters cubed, I read that as 39 mm^3. 39,000 mm^3 would be 39 cm^3 that's a bar of length 3.9cm, height 1cm and width 1cm, actually much smaller than current laptop batteries. Of course maybe the article meant 39mm x 39mm x 39mm then it would take 1521 times more space. Also I don't think the volume of the fuel is taken into account.
        • the article says 39 milimiters cubed, I read that as 39 mm^3
          I'm pretty sure they meant a cube that was 39mm on all sides, if they meant 39mm^3 they probably would have said "39 cubic millimeters". It's not 100% clear though, they could just be using imprecise language.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sholden (12227)
          It means the 39x39x39 version but was written by someone partially illiterate. See http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2007/08/24/sony_sugar _battery/ [reghardware.co.uk] for a picture and the dimensions specified correctly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by zacronos (937891)
          39 cm^3 that's a bar of length 3.9cm, height 1cm and width 1cm

          Close, but no cigar. A bar that's 3.9cm x 1cm x 1cm is only 3.9cm^3. On the other hand, a bar that's 5cm x 3.9cm x 2cm is 39cm^3, which is still a nice-size battery for a laptop (assuming the article meant 39(mm^3) rather than (39mm)^3), if it can last as long as is expected of laptop batteries.
      • The article says that the cells are 39mm squared so that would take up a volume of over two cubic feet (somebody check my math on this).

        But how much of the 39mm^3 volume is required for the fuel, and how would the size of the components change as you scale up the output? Maybe it's possible to build a 50W device that is not tremendously bigger than this one.
      • by Mikachu (972457)
        Clearly you didn't read the previous article about the one-watt VIA setup that runs at 500mhz. Doesn't seem so crazy now, does it?
    • That is the reason why it won't be used in car batteries. It might get used in laptops in the future however, as I can see that working. However because you can't send in an electrical charge and have the enzymes create sugar, there is no way for the system to store the energy back into the battery without physically adding more sugar. In a car battery, once the engine is started, the combustion of the fuel turns the engine, which in tern, turns the alternator which generates electricity which is then fed b
      • by Bomarc (306716)
        Follow up points --
        As this would be an electrical car, there won't be 180F under the hood (Unless there is a REAL problem with global warming)
        And when we go to the 'energy station' of the future: Why won't have a sugar & enzymes that we can drop in and replace?
        ..... and, if this will only work in CA, that would reduce the green house gasses by 50% ;-) but on a serious note - if it would work for 40% of the cars on the road now, that would put a serious dent w/ problems and petroleum based energy.
  • Consistency? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    One thing that I think would be a problem with "bio"-anything is consistency. What if it gets too hot, too cold, too humid, whatever? Do the biological components start behaving differently? Will the power output stay consistent under extreme vibration, etc?
  • by syrinx (106469) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:48AM (#20345195) Homepage
    The bio cell, which measures 39 millimeters cubed, delivers 50mW -- a world record for such a cell, according to the company.

    The real question is, how much force does it create when it explodes?
  • No sony device will run on anything else, sure it is less efficient and probably won't work for very long, but sony brand SugarRay is now the only power you are allowed to use in your house. Old standards and new technology aren't important.

    This just in HighDefinitionBatteries have been adopted by the biggest battery studios SugarRay is now dead.
  • Screw that (Score:5, Funny)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:50AM (#20345225)
    I can convert glucose to energy very efficiently, just give me a crank.
  • by Davenport Spiff jr (1076315) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:50AM (#20345233)
    Sweet!
  • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:51AM (#20345241) Homepage Journal

    After months an all-sugar diet, your Walkman becomes obese and sluggish, then you need to give it regular insulin injections, etc.

    • by arth1 (260657)
      I'm more interested in where the amp and headphones are that can be powered by what's left over from 50 mW after the D/A converter does its job (decoding MP3 or Sony's love format, ATRAC, is clearly out of the question).

      Seriously, they would have to serial couple so many of these that it would indeed be an obese device.

      Regards,
      --
      *Art
  • Big deal (Score:4, Funny)

    by HeavensBlade23 (946140) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:51AM (#20345255)
    ...my body's been doing that for years.
  • I hate be a bit of a troll on this but Economists are already warning about food-based sources for fuel. Using grains to create ethanol could have a negative impact on the food market by driving up prices - especially for poor countries. Now Sony, in their infinate capatilsitic wisdom, have created a way to power a device, using suger. Nice. So in 15 years down the road, families around the world start starving so I can power my power-hungry laptop with a few pounds of suger, and dump a tonne of ehtanol
    • by iggymanz (596061) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:55AM (#20345309)
      sugar doesn't have to come from grains, that's the stupid way. All plant cellulose is a bunch of sugars hooked end to end.
    • Just ask Mr Fusion.
    • Your use - or, for that matter, everybody's use - of sugar to power a laptop won't have nearly the effect on starving third worlders as their own government's corruption and mismanagement. There is enough food to go around, the problem is allocation, not your laptop.
      • "There are now more overweight people in the world than people who are undernourished..."
        http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/09/03/health/m ain1962961.shtml [cbsnews.com]
        • That's the most useless statement ever. That can mean that famine is nearly a thing of the past, because overweight people are not all that common, and that we're at one of our best moments *ever* in overall fitness. Or it might mean that the world's population is at an alarming point of imbalance, with population spread towards the two ends of the spectrum, and properly nourished (neither over nor under) are scarce as hen's teeth. Of course, most people have enough context to know that it's neither (but cl
          • I agree that it is rather vauge, and that all of the possible curves that you describe are possible interpretations of the data. But we don't need to know what the curve looks like for the discussion at hand.
            Remember OP's original contention is that using sugar like this decreases food for the poor. We're looking for total calories here, not demographics of calorie-consumers. The article referenced by GP does demonstrate that there are enough calories to go around.
    • Food subsidies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vlad_petric (94134) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:04PM (#20345431) Homepage
      If food prices are driven up, many poor countries are in fact going to benefit. With their very cheap labor, they could, at least in theory, produce cheap food and even export it. However, food subsidies in the developed world essentially kills their markets. Not only are they not able to export, they end up importing cheaper, subsidized food.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        This model has been disastrously unsuccessful [wikipedia.org] in the past. Exportable cash crops crowd out domestic food production [wikipedia.org] leaving agricultural workers poor and malnourished. The technology sounds like fermentation to me. My car gets forty rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I likes it!
      • by dslauson (914147)
        You've heard of the Great Potato Famine [wikipedia.org] of Ireland, right? The thing is, there wasn't a true shortage of food, it was just so profitable to export that the poor in the country couldn't compete, and thus couldn't afford to purchase the food their own country produced. People starved.

        I'm sure they would have loved to buy cheaper food from other countries as you say, but that food was being exported to the more affluent countries as well.
        • If I remember correctly they solved that by sending Ted Danson to live with very tiny people, then very big people, then like talking horses or something.
      • In most poor countries, the fruits of labor is not shared very well. The profits of exports will stay in the creamy layer of the society in the top. Most of the working peasants would find it difficult to buy food. In the first half of the twentieth century the plantation owners in the New World and Africa were frolicking in Paris and London while their labor force was working their fingers to the bone. That set the stage for widespread support for Communism.
      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday August 24, 2007 @01:12PM (#20346345)

        Not only are they not able to export, they end up importing cheaper, subsidized food.
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6105790.st m [bbc.co.uk]

        I'll just point out that the subsidised food actually drives the poor farmers out of business and reduces the amount of land that is then dedicated to farming within the poorest regions. The really nasty problems start when there's a subsequent drought and the remaining productive land doesn't produce enough food to feed the population. The result is famine, starvation, death and a greater need for aid.

        Another problem appears when you have thousands of disaffected unemployed ex farmers just sitting around. Ideal supply of soldiers for anyone who decides they want to rebel against their desperate situation. Which obviously makes everything an order of magnitude worse. It's no coincidence that areas which receive lots of aid are areas which have problems with ongoing conflicts. It's a self reinforcing cycle.

        Really, food subsidies are a form of economic warfare which attacks the poorest, most wretched, most defenceless people on the planet...

        EU and US farmers are directly the cause of millions of deaths in the 3rd world.

         
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      Using grains to create ethanol could have a negative impact on the food market by driving up prices - especially for poor countries.
      Poor countries will become farmers... They'll make a bundle.

       
    • Using grains to create ethanol could have a negative impact on the food market by driving up prices - especially for poor countries.

      One of the major problems in many of those countries is they now have more people then they can actually feed from local agriculture (IE. over the local carrying capacity). This over population tends to diminish the local carrying capacity over time and results in things like desertification and ecological stress. If for some reason the food stops coming (economic instability,
    • You are right biofuels have various downsides [bbc.co.uk] but to get a realistic calculation the things get rather complicated. You have to consider which fuel/substances you are replacing, which crop you grow, how you grow it etc.

      Depending what kind of battery you replace (with cadmium, mercury, or lead?). I think it would be good to have a sugar-driven alternative.

      Right now the accelerated demand for biofuels in the US (among other factors) is ruining the Gulf of Mexico [noaa.gov]. This clearly shows a downside of biofuels

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:55AM (#20345311) Homepage Journal
    That's all we need: unkillable devices competing with humans for food. That can lull us to sleep or drive us crazy just by playing the same song over and over.

    We'll go out not with a bang, or a whimper, but a "shuffle".
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:33PM (#20345845)

      That's all we need: unkillable devices competing with humans for food. That can lull us to sleep or drive us crazy just by playing the same song over and over.

      We'll go out not with a bang, or a whimper, but a "shuffle".
      Do you not remember the slugbot story from a while back? Robotic slug killer crawls through the garden scooping up slugs to be digested and converted into robot fuel. Yeah, they started with slugs because we feel they're icky. They'll move on to cockroaches and nobody will care, then lobbyists and politicians and lawyers. And then when they come for the humans, there will be no one else to save us...unless we live upstairs. But God help us if they assimilate the design for that stair-climbing wheelchair.
  • by Phat_Tony (661117) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:56AM (#20345317)
    Someone who follows this field please reply- how are they doing with using these things to run implantable medical devices? Are they on the market, in human testing, in animal testing, in design, still just a glint in a venture capitalist's eye?

    I know they're planning to have all sorts of implantable blood-powered sensors that send radio signals out to monitors. So, for one example, a diabetic can have a continuous blood glucose meter implanted in their wrist, which is powered by something like this, and sends wireless signals to a wrist-watch that gives continuous readings of blood glucose, bypassing all the finger-pricking blood tests. And the watch could then store that data and send it to the computer, where they can track it, graph it, correlate it with diet and exercise, recognize trends in the disease, etc. I'm sure there are endless cool potential medical uses. But I've been hearing about this for many years now, and while I'm sure I could Google up how it's going with a few hours of reading, would some knowledgeable Slashdot reader like to just cut to the chase and tell us where things stand?
    • bypassing all the finger-licking blood tests.
    • by NJVil (154697)
      Better yet, with the rising trend of diabetes with all of its complications, Sony stands to make a small fortune manufacturing the urine-powered Walkman (with SmartPowerCatheter Technology(TM)).
  • Considering... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bullfish (858648) on Friday August 24, 2007 @11:59AM (#20345359)
    What happened for example in Mexico with tortilla prices http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6319093.stm [bbc.co.uk] and the threat to tequila production as well(!!), I wonder about the wisdom of converting our food supply to slake our thirst for energy. I would far better like to see alternative energy products like hydrogen fuel cells and the like rather than turning over arable land to energy production.

    These batteries may have the potential to be good, but the impact on people, especially in the third world where food prices are a large obstacle has the potential to be nasty.
    • by Valar (167606)
      I suspect that will be a wholly temporary phenomena. Contrary to popular belief, we haven't used nearly all of our arable land. I expect to see corn production increase soon (after all, why wouldn't you want to get into a market for a good that's prices are supposedly up 400%).
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:23PM (#20345709)
      Remember: Hydrogen fuel cells are just batteries in effect. They aren't a method for producing power. You have to have hydrogen gas to make them work and that doesn't occur in quantities such that we can just gather it. It must be separated from another compound, water for example. Ok, but that requires energy. Where does that energy come from?

      Supposing that the biogenesis theory of fossil fuel production is correct (the classic theory, that says it comes from living things over long periods and as such is not renewable) we are going to run out of it at some point. Unless you think we should all go live in the wilderness without power (in which case I say you first) we need to find alternate energy sources. Biofuels may well be a good one.

      Hydrogen isn't a solution by itself. We may start using it as a more efficient way to store and transport power, but to get it we need to get energy from somewhere.

      Unless we are going to take the Luddite answer of saying we need to stop using technology that requires power (which will lead to millions, perhaps billions of deaths as we cannot sustain the current population on preindustrial means) then we have to look for alternate power sources. We can't stick our heads in the sand and just whine about problems. Any energy source will come with problems, that's just life. The problems have to be weighed against the benefits.

      Also please remember: Biofuels are in their infancy. Maybe we should keep investing and working, see if we can't figure out ways to make it more efficient. Plants are pretty efficient little solar cells, when you get down to it, we just need to work on getting ones that we can then efficiently turn in to other forms of energy.
  • So Sony is cool again, right?
  • by nobodyman (90587) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:01PM (#20345377) Homepage
    Please put your "That's Sweet" jokes under this thread, and be sure to include your home address and the specific way you would like me to kill you.
  • by SomeGuyFromCA (197979) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:02PM (#20345387) Journal
    Unfortunately, the American version will run off of high-fructose corn syrup.

    also, there's an Obvious Simpsons Reference here which I am too lazy to make.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They should try to make a self powered mini bioreactors which consume sugar from blood.
    • by pragma_x (644215)
      You mean, like [sciencedaily.com] this [slashdot.org]?

      TROY, N.Y., Aug. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. nanoscientists have developed an energy storage device that resembles a sheet of black paper and might power tomorrow's electronics.
      [...]
      Another key feature is the capability to use human blood or perspiration to help power the battery.

      Imagine the implications for prosthetics, pacemakers and hearing aids; throw in your double-whammy insulin pump and blood glucose regulator/burner while you're at it. All that's needed are some man-made materials that are

  • by downix (84795) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:03PM (#20345407) Homepage
    I one day forsee this technology being paired with a highly efficient food processing machine, breaking down foods into their component sugars.

    Turning your garbage, old moldy food, etc into your households electricity needs!
    • Mr. Fusion?
    • I one day forsee this technology being paired with a highly efficient food processing machine, breaking down foods into their component sugars.

      Turning your garbage, old moldy food, etc into your households electricity needs!
      But how will it look when mounted to the back of a DeLorean?
    • Or your neighbor! ...

      Oh. Ha! Ha! I joke, of course.
  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:03PM (#20345413) Homepage
    First you get the sugar, then you get the power, THEN you get the women!
  • Who would think those lemon batteries would B the power source of the future.
  • Medical uses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:10PM (#20345509)
    I wonder if there's potential for medical uses? Like powering pacemakers or other internal electronics, or burning off excess glucose in type II diabetics, or just burning off glucose for weight control
  • I think Sony should name their humanoid robot in development "PlayMusic".
  • by MenTaLguY (5483) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:18PM (#20345631) Homepage
    I think this reflects a trend that we're seeing more of lately: technology using materials and processes taken from biology. This shouldn't be too surprising, as biology is optimized for the particular physics and chemistry of our universe.
  • by alta (1263) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:20PM (#20345645) Homepage Journal
    The price of corn went up thanks to all these 'green' autos. Now the price of sugar is going to go up because of personal audio devices!

    They need to concentrate on getting power out of byproducts like veggie diesel. Now gimme a walkman with a small diesel engine running a small generator and then I'll be happy. Granted i'll have to stand in one place because it'll be too heavy to carry. And my hands will stink after fueling. At least grease doesn't explode to readily.

    Hey, here's a question. Would a Vegan drive a volkswagon that runs off of animal fat grease? What a delimma... it's already dead, and it would be 'green.' What about a car that runs off of roadkill. Ok, this is going to be modd'd offtopic ;)
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      The price of sugar is already up (to two or three times world levels) because of tariffs.

      Really, they're substitutes anyway, so a high price for one leads to a higher price for the other...

    • by tjw (27390)

      The price of corn went up thanks to all these 'green' autos. Now the price of sugar is going to go up because of personal audio devices!

      I'm not sure where you got that idea about corn prices [cbot.com]. It would actually be nice if the demand for corn DID go up so we could end some of the subsidies here in the US.

      Currently the only way it's at all profitable to grow corn is if the USDA pays you [usda.gov] to do it. The USDA also pays farmers NOT to grow corn [wikipedia.org] because we produce too much of it.

      We stopped growing corn on our beef farm in the early 90's since it was cheaper to just buy corn and make only hay.

      Anyway, back on topic, I think the major benefi

    • by deander2 (26173) *
      Hey, here's a question. Would a Vegan drive a volkswagon that runs off of animal fat grease? What a delimma... it's already dead,

      i would say no. that hamburger is already dead, and they don't eat that. =P

      (btw, i like ordering veal when eating w/ vegans......mmmmm torture is tasty =P )
  • This just in, "Sony and Dell in sweet new deal that promises explosive new laptop experience!"
  • Well, that's the end of free packets of sugar.
  • I'm single, and food in the US is only sold in "family size" portions. That means 50% of the stuff I buy spoils or gets moldy before I have a chance to eat it. Today, this goes in the trash or garbage disposal. But once this sort of battery becomes common, we will just have sugar processors. Dump your moldy food in, and fuel cells come out for use in your phone, iPod, laptop, and whatever else.

    It really is like the Mr. Fusion! Garbage powered devices!

    And for the people saying this will lead to food shortage
  • by cerelib (903469) on Friday August 24, 2007 @12:40PM (#20345943)
    So will the US version need to use high fructose corn syrup instead to avoid the crazy sugar industry restrictions?
  • Psh, this is supposed to be news? I made one of these with an apple, two wires, and a digital clock in kindergarden.
  • For children, this means your kid can have his mini-toy robot run off sugar. So when it gets tired you just have to actually feed him with sugar, and ta-da!

    But what's the efficiency of sugar? I found in a diet site the following data:
    • 1 gram of carbohydrate (i.e. sugar) = 4 calories
    • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
    • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories (this is equivalent to burning gasoline)
    • 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories

    So sugar is very inefficiency compared to other fuels. But at least it's a start. In any case, this rem

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      Maybe that should be our goal, to have all our machines running on biofuel, hence becoming carbon neutral.
      Hah, that's kind of funny. Human history:
      1. Work against nature, try to do things 'better'.
      2. Find out that it doesn't work.
      3. Eventually do things the way nature intended.

      Maybe that's humanity's destiny: to realize that we were wrong all along.
    • But what's the efficiency of sugar? I found in a diet site the following data:

      • 1 gram of carbohydrate (i.e. sugar) = 4 calories
      • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
      • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories (this is equivalent to burning gasoline)
      • 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories

      So sugar is very inefficiency compared to other fuels.

      Kilocalories/gram is not a measure of efficiency, it is a measure of energy density.

      As a fuel source, sugar is the most efficient material you've listed. Production of the other three requires large amounts of energy input, often in the form of sugar.

  • by Dunbal (464142)
    Too bad the article fails to mention what these enzymes turn the sugar into. Ethanol?

    Hey I know how to solve the battery (hic) recycling pro (hic) problem. Can I have your (hic) dead batteries?
  • They create an innovative source of energy, and then demonstrate it by powering a Walkman?

    When they get around to inventing Mr. Fusion, will they demonstrate how it can power a vaccuum tube radio?

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