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Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes, posted in Ethanol.


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Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes

News » Energy | Biofuels | Environment | Hydrogen | Solar | Transportation | Wind
July 12th, 2010 - View Comments

Potato Power This could very well be the magic formula for future power generation. Yes, scientists are busy crafting what is now called as “solid organic electric battery based upon treated potatoes.” These are absolutely eco-friendly batteries – based on the hidden powers of potatoes – which will be an economical answer to the growing power needs of developing and developed countries.

Simple sustainable solution:
There are still places in the world where basic infrastructure for lighting and other electrical needs is insufficient. The researchers at Hebrew University are now trying to create magic out of humble common potatoes to provide a solution for generating power to meet this need.

Potato powered battery:
It is the salt-bridge capacity that is latent in treated potato tubers which makes them the ideal medium for generating power easily and economically. An easy process of electrolysis is used in the construction of the simple yet efficient battery. A slice of our ordinary potato, zinc and copper electrodes are all that go to make the battery. By boiling the potato, the electric power is increased 10 times more than with the non-boiled potatoes, and the longevity is also greatly increased.

Similar to conventional batteries:
The principle scientists use to better the performance of the traditional batteries is almost similar. The less the salt-bridge resistance in the potato-power battery, the longer and more efficient the batteries are.

Potato power demonstrated:
The treated potato power batteries (with low power electricity) were used to power LEDs. These batteries can provide lighting, power telecommunication and transfer of information in the developing non-OECD populated areas. Where there is insufficient access to proper electrical infrastructure, these eco- and environmentally friendly green generators of power will be found useful.

Scientists’ gift:
Prof. Haim D. Rabinowitch, Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environment and Alex Golberg, School of Computer Science & Engineering, Hebrew University, jointly with Prof. Boris Rubinsky, University of California, Berkeley, carried out the research – sponsored by Yissum Research Development Company Ltd, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The research was into electrolytic process in living matter that can be used for many applications, including generation of electric energy like for self-powered implanted medical electronic devices.

Cost effective:
Cost-wise also potato-powered batteries are more viable. The 1.5 volt D cells and Energizer E-91 cells proved to be more costly – about 5-50 times more than these vegetable powered cells. Not only potatoes but other treated vegetables can be utilized to provide clean and inexpensive green energy. But potatoes win hands down as vegetable of choice to power the battery due to their high production and easy availability.

What do you think?

Related posts:

  • Phil

    Any energy generated from a food staple is a potential nightmare.

    Substituting land for the production of food crops for fuel is just plain wrong, creating starvation where none exists at the margins of affordability.

    Please don’t do this it is an inhuman waste, you may as well just shoot poor people instead. This would mean extermination.

  • sheckyvegas

    This is SUCH a natural for late-night talk show jokes.

    “If your battery dies down and strands you by the side of the road, at least you can have lunch!”
    Hi-Yooooooo!

  • Carl

    I made my first raw potato power cell almost six decades ago … and it was already an old idea way back then, so this is hardly a new idea. Perhaps, though, its time has come to shine!

    Of course the real-world trade-offs need to be considered. Even if a boiled potato is 10 times more efficient as a source of power, how much power is consumed in boiling the potato compared to the usable electric power available from that potato? It takes a lot of energy to heat a sufficient amount of water to boiling and maintain that heat long enough to cook a potato. Also, is a potato more valuable as a source of food or as a source of light?

    On a picky technical note, a single potato rigged with electrodes is a “potato cell.” Only by connecting two or more such potato cells together can one create a “potato battery.”

  • styke

    This project has nothing to do with ethanol. The plan here is to make cheaper disposable batteries. It does not seem to be any more green than carbon-zinc dry cell batteries, and the cost comparison seems highly unlikely. The paste inside a dry cell is not a significant cost.

    Regarding boiling, I find it unlikely that these will ever produce enough power to boil a potato, putting the entire system at a net loss to the consumer, ignoring the cost of manufacturing and delivering electrodes.

  • Rojelio

    I’ve heard that this can also be done with trees? Is that true? More plentiful than potatoes and you’re not ravaging somebody’s food supply.
    At any rate, shouldn’t we start seeing ultra cheap thin film solar cells that we could flood the earth with at some point?

  • Paul Smith

    Solar concentrators could easily boil the taters and the biodegradability is a plus. Maybe even compost dead batteries for fertilizer. Duraspud here we come.

  • GreyGeek

    Zinc and Copper are expensive metals and they are consumed during use, making replacement expensive. Using salty boiled Potatoes for as battery electrolytes is as insane as using Corn for fuel. It will take more energy to cook the Potatoes than the battery will give as light or power.

    Silicon photovoltaic cells are more affordable, and with flat plastic Fresnel focusing the Sun light they can generate significant power for rechargeable batteries.

    While the discovery that boiled, salty Potato slices significantly improves the performance of Potato cells or batteries, it is not a discovery which can be parlayed into a profitable product, which is probably why it knowledge was “given away”.

  • TSvi

    Sounds like a joke, but UC Berkeley and Hebrew U have serious engineering departments. Likely smart enough to know the cost of buying and boiling potatoes. Yet it is a long way from a research project to a commercially viable product. If some years from now a cheaper battery shows up, then we will know the true interest of this team was not merely to publish a paper and they understand something about products and costs. I am not yet ready to invest money in their company. But maybe I will kick myself later for laughing.

  • MK

    Come on everyone! This is no new achievement… And they are still exploring it!! There must be more there than meets the eye. Its common knowledge that they can marketed more expensive as “Green” products. If you look at it from the biodiversity standpoint there must be a type of potato that is already half way there that hadn’t been created yet. As far as the boiling, they said “treated in the article”, many chemical heat up when combined which I would hope is a part of the process (chemicals that can be used again and again).
    I would hope that this particular potato is not edible or it would be efficient as a battery. How ever old this novel idea is there are still leaps and bounds for this new industry to overcome.

    Ps can wait for DuraSpud either
    PSS Sony made a battery out of sugar.
    http://www.sony.net/Products/SC-HP/cx_news/vol51/pdf/sideview51.pdf

  • Ted Sumrall

    Who is the powerful senator/congressman from Idaho? Sen. Grassley got Pres. Bush to plug ethanol from Corn so someone is plugging potatoes now.

  • andy cris

    Potatoes are one of the most common vegetables all over the world. They are cheap, easy to cook and have so many health benefits.
    I will start to grow tomatoes in my farm and now learning whatever i can about them, thanks for information. I also
    found another good site about potatoes and so many other methods of agriculturing, i recommend you to take a look.

    http://agricultureguide.org/

  • Jessie Ochoa

    Well, you all know the issues. But, biofuels are coming and if you think any different you are already living in past. So, the real questions are how will people get around? Anti gravity machines like in the old Dick Tracy Comics? Even if we have such machines the public needs to be controlled and doing so by limited food, limited health and limited job opportunities helps the 1% of the population through these means. Thanks for your comments, they are filled with so much hope for the future.

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