Power to the paper: Pulp-powered batteries are in the works

Power to the paper: Pulp-powered batteries are in the works

Yesterday's news could be tomorrow's biofuel. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ljb/26549528/lightbox/">Lisa Batty (Flickr)</a>
Yesterday's news could be tomorrow's biofuel. Photo: Lisa Batty (Flickr)

Why not do something useful with those stacks of holiday cards languishing at home? Like re-charge your cell phone.

Japan has taken recycling to the next level: Sony recently unveiled a paper-powered battery prototype. How does it work? Engineers use the enzyme cellulase to break down paper matter into glucose sugar. Combine a few more enzymes with a dash of oxygen and you get a bona fide biofuel.

The process is pulled right from nature, researchers explained: it's used by white ants and termites, which use digested wood as a form of energy.

The paper-fueled battery is still in the early stages of development, but even low-output experiments have big potential. If brought to market, the prospect of using paper waste to recharge mobile phones or run small devices such as fans or lights is a bright spot on the innovation frontier. Whether off-the-grid in rural Africa or struggling with energy payments in the U.S. or Europe, turning paper waste into usable energy can play a part in alleviating poverty.

Perhaps the newspaper industry can capitalize on this green initiative to generate a little green of its own.

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