Biobattery Could Power Internet of Disposable Things Wireless Sensors

June 07, 2019 by Paul Shepard

In the future, small paper and plastic devices will be able to connect to the internet for a short duration, providing information on everything from healthcare to consumer products, before they are thrown away. Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have developed a micro biobattery that could power these disposable sensors.

The solid phase bacteria-powered biobattery in the photo above could be a low-cost power source for the Internet of Disposable Things. (photo credit, Sean Choi)

The Internet of Disposable Things (IoDT) is a phenomenon in which wireless sensors are attached to nearly any type of device in order to provide up-to-date information via the internet. For example, a sensor could be attached to food packaging to monitor the freshness of the food inside.

"IoDT is a new paradigm for the rapid evolution of wireless sensor networks," said Seokheun Choi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Binghamton University. "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."

Choi's previous small-size microbial fuel cells suffered from low power density and energy-intensive fluidic feeding operation, so he thought that a small-power, disposable, solid-state battery-type microbial fuel cell platform without the fluidic system would be more applicable and potentially realizable.

"Previously, my group had two directions: 1) disposable paper-based biobatteries for single-use low-power systems (e.g. biosensors) and 2) long-term microbial fuel cells for sustainable applications. The biobattery we developed this time was a kind of combined technique of those two; 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."

Video describing disposable paper-based biobatteries:

"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."

Choi is in the process of integrating serially connected biobatteries with a dc-dc converter.

This research was funded by a $510,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research. Binghamton doctoral student Maedeh Mohammadifar contributed to this research.

The paper, "A solid phase bacteria-powered biobattery for low-power, low-cost, Internet of Disposable Things," was published in the Journal of Power Sources.