Could this eco-friendly biobattery usher in era of ‘disposable IoT’?

5 Jun 2019

The medical industry could benefit from disposable biobatteries. Image: © vzmaze/

Potentially allowing for everything to be connected online, a new biobattery could be part of the ‘internet of disposable things’.

Much of the focus of internet of things (IoT) technology has been on creating devices that require very little power in short bursts, thereby significantly increasing the lifespan of the small batteries within them. However, new developments in the space have made it possible to expand IoT into every conceivable item and, importantly, not damage our planet in the process.

In a paper published to the Journal of Power Sources, a team from Binghamton University has demonstrated a small bacteria-powered, paper-based biobattery that can connect to the internet for short durations. For example, such a battery could be placed on food packaging in a store to monitor the freshness of the food inside.

The team behind its creation says it will be part of the ‘internet of disposable things’ (IoDT), with Seokheun (Sean) Choi of the university saying it will be a “new paradigm for the rapid evolution of wireless sensor networks”.

He added: “This novel technique, constructed in a small, compact, disposable package at a low price point, can connect things inexpensively to function for only a programmed period and then be readily thrown away.”

Close-up of the transparent bacteria-powered biobattery with black diodes.

The new biobattery. Image: Sean Choi

Best of both worlds

Previous biobatteries developed by Choi suffered from low power density and energy-intensive fluidic feeding operation. This led him to think that a small-power, disposable, solid-state, battery-type microbial fuel cell platform without the fluidic system would be more applicable.

This latest biobattery is a combination of his team’s efforts to create disposable, paper-based biobatteries for single-use cases and long-term microbial fuel cells for long-term cases.

“The power duration was significantly enhanced by using solid-state compartments but the device is a form of a battery without complicated, energy-intensive fluidic feeding systems that typical microbial fuel cells require,” Choi said.

He added that unlike other IoDT power sources, this is a revolutionary concept when it comes to the environment.

“Current IoDTs are mostly powered by expensive and environmentally hazardous batteries, thus ultimately leading to significant cost increases and environmental issues for their large-scale deployment,” added Choi. “Our biobattery is low-cost, disposable and environmentally friendly.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic