If you’re going to talk on your cell phone, you’ve got to keep the battery charged. Engineers and bugs may help. We’ll see how, today on Engineering Works!
Everybody has a cell phone these days. They’re everywhere. Some places, they’re the only phones there are. Consider Uganda. In rural Uganda fewer than one household in 100 is connected to the utility grid. No electricity. No landline telephone. But more and more people have cell phones. In developing countries, it’s cheaper and easier to build a cell network than a conventional landline system.
Of course, this brings another problem. How to recharge cell phone batteries without electricity to power the charger. This is where the engineers and the bugs come in.
Some engineering students have come up with a way to capture the energy that bacteria produce as they chow down on plant wastes to get electricity. It’s called a microbial fuel cell, or MFC. MFCs would be a perfect fit for electricity in rural areas of developing countries.
But don’t look for MFCs at your local big box store any time soon. The inventors are still early in the development process, and their prototype is kind of slow. It would take about six months to recharge a cell phone battery. But you can connect several together to get more power, and the engineers say future versions are likely to be more powerful still.
Our batteries are going flat, so we’re out of here. See you next time.
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