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BeFC, an ecological battery made of paper and sugar.

© Marie Fontaine -

Today, electronic devices are ubiquitous in our society... and so are their batteries! For example, there were 12.3 billion connected objects in the world at the end of 2021, according to the American market research firm IoT Analytics.

To provide the necessary energy for all these devices, we use a lot of lithium button batteries. Most of the time, they are thrown in the trash without being recycled and moreover often only have one single use: 97% end up in landfill or are incinerated.

Piles au lithyum
Lithium batteries

In 2020, the world production of lithium reached 82,000 tons (United States Geological Survey - USGS), the largest producers being Australia (40,000 t) and Chile (18,000 t). However, the extraction of this metal has a significant ecological impact: it uses a lot of water in desert areas and plays a significant role in soil contamination.

Lithium batteries are widely used in the medical sector (diabetes patches, ovulation or pregnancy tests...), but also in portable electronic objects and in the IoT (Internet of Things).

BeFC, a French deep tech start-up, has succeeded in developing a metal-free, safe and durable bio-battery, which for the moment can power small objects.

It all started with several decades of research by Serge Cosnier, research director at the CNRS - the French National Centre for Scientific Research - and a specialist in molecular electrochemistry.

Through experiments, he and his team have managed to change the energy of living organisms into electricity, thanks to enzymes (natural proteins present in the body).

The idea of a bio-battery has made its way within the institution, particularly for medical applications.

BeFC is a CNRS spin-off created in 2020: to develop this technology, four researchers were involved in the research, including Jules Hammond, co-founder and current CEO.

How does this battery work? Already patented, it is composed of several layers of paper made from cellulose, carbon and glucose. Enzymes, immobilized between these layers, act as a natural catalyst. They convert substrates such as glucose or oxygen into electricity in a process that can be compared to digestion, which turns food into energy.

The different layers of the battery - Credit BeFC

The presence of paper in the composition of the battery gives it several significant advantages, allowing it to be both thin, portable and light and thus easily inserted into a large number of everyday objects, such as clothing, patches ...

This ultra-thin (0.6mm) and flexible bio-battery generates up to 1 milliwatt of power per square centimeter. It can be activated on demand with any fluid (water, urine, blood, saliva, sweat) and can produce electricity from a few minutes to two months depending on its application. Its storage capacities are excellent: if it is not activated, it loses only 4% of its power in 18 months!

Composition of the battery - Credit: BeFC

BeFC's invention is extremely promising and could contribute to a more sustainable environment, revolutionizing sectors such as logistics, transportation, health and especially in the field of IoT.

🎬 Here is BeFC's presentation of the paper and sugar-based battery:


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