Cambridge Scientists Develop Quintuple-Power Battery Inspired By Gut Bacteria

A UK-Chinese team of scientists have delivered a prototype for a better battery, which could extend the time between smartphone charges – and it's all inspired by our guts.

A battery being charged
Say goodbye to carting your phone charger with you everywhere! ... But not until 2020.


A UK-Chinese team of scientists has delivered a prototype for a better battery, which could extend the time between smartphone charges. What’s perhaps more interesting is this latest innovation was inspired by our guts.

This new lithium-sulfur battery mimics the villi found in the gut, which line the small intestines to absorb nutrients. What’s more, the villi do so by increasing the surface area over which this process of energy absorption can take place—this process is what caught researchers’ attentions. The increase in surface area would allow for improved power density—as much as five times that of the lithium-ion batteries in smartphones, today, researchers estimate. 

"By taking our inspiration from the natural world, we were able to come up with a solution that we hope will accelerate the development of next-generation batteries," said lead author Teng Zhao, a PhD student from Cambridge. "This is the first time a chemically functional layer with a well-organized nano-architecture has been proposed to trap and reuse the dissolved active materials during battery charging and discharging.”

Lithium-sulfur batteries sure look like the successor to the lithium-ion battery. The higher energy density and reduced cost from the use of sulfur are two of the leading reasons, but as with any chemical reaction, this one comes with some side-effects. Many researchers and companies, like Sony, have been working to develop one durable and safe enough for commercial release.

The day of the lithium-sulfur battery is still years away, but on the horizon – Sony believes it can have one ready by 2020.

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