This biological battery is made of vitamins

Vitamin AAA

Batteries are vital to modern life. Without them, there'd be no cars, mobile phones, cameras or laptops. TechRadar would be a very different place.

But there's a bit of a problem - producing and disposing of batteries has a big impact on the environment. So engineers and chemists are constantly working to find greener alternatives - after all, nature is actually pretty good at storing energy.

The latest development comes from the University of Toronto. There, a team of chemists have created a battery that incorporates parts made of vitamins. It's high-voltage, long-lasting, and environmentally-friendly.

Bio-Derived

The main breakthrough is the creation of a cathode out of a substance called "flavin", derived from vitamin B2. Cathodes are where electrons flow from inside a battery, providing an electrical current to an attached device.

While bio-derived battery parts have been made before, this is the first that uses long-chain polymers for the electrodes.

The energy can therefore be stored in a vitamin-created plastic, rather than a more expensive, less environmentally-friendly material like cobalt.

Dwight Seferos, who co-authored a paper describing the battery in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, says that the development process took some time.

"You put things together in a certain order, but some things that look like they'll fit together on paper don't in reality," he said. "We tried a few approaches and the fifth one worked."

Trial and Error

Tyler Schon, who also worked on the project, added: "It's been a lot of trial-and-error. Now we're looking to design new variants that can be recharged again and again."

Their current prototype is about the size of a hearing aid battery, but they plan to develop it further and potentially scale it up to a size that could support larger devices.

  • Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.

Image credit: Diana Tyszko/University of Toronto