Bacteria-powered cellphone charger

A bacteria-powered cellphone charger could keep people in developing countries talking, even when they live far from the grid.

Cellphones are increasingly vital to everyday life, and the economy of many developing countries. But in some areas electricity to charge them can be hard to come by.

To tackle the problem, a team of students from Massachusetts Instituteof Technology, Boston, US, has designed a microbial fuel cell (MFC)that runs on plant waste. MFCs use electrons released by feeding bacteria on sugars, starches, and other organic material, to produce electricity.

But for MFCs to be competitive in developing countries, they need tobe cheaper. "We're using a non-platinum catalyst, so that allows us tolower the cost," la O' says. Most MFCs use platinum as a catalyst tocombine oxygen with electrons and hydrogen ions into water, as part ofthe electrochemical reaction that produces power.

BioVoltis currently patenting its catalyst and is unwilling to divulge what itis made from. But the team says it is cheap enough for one of thedevices to cost only about $2 in parts

Source: technology.newscientist.comAdded: 22 November 2007