We’ve embraced the IoT lifestyle but are you ready for a greener life filled with disposable IoT devices? Researchers are currently working towards commercializing a non-hazardous, bacteria-powered miniature battery that will help propel the Internet of Disposable Things (IoDT). The devices could help in myriad of ways, but researchers are most hopeful about integration in single-use plastic packaging and other packaging material, to help tackle the rising waste amounts in a booming logistics sector.
The “Internet of Disposable Things is a new paradigm for the rapid evolution of wireless sensor networks,” says Sokheun Choi, an associate professor at Binghamton University, in an article on the school’s website.” The miniaturized battery that Choi’s research team has come up with is uniquely charged through power created by bacteria. It doesn’t have the traditional battery composition of metals and acids. And it’s specifically designed to provide energy to sensors and radios in single-use IoT devices. These could be the kinds of sensors ideal for supply-chain logistics where the container is ultimately going to end up in a landfill, adding to a hazardous environment.
Another hopeful use case is real-time analysis of packaged food, with sensors monitoring temperature and location, preventing spoilage and providing safer food handling. For example, a farm product could be tracked for on-time delivery, as well as have its temperature measured, all within the packaging, as it moves from packaging facility to end consumer. In the event of a food-borne illness outbreak, one can quickly find out where the product originated — which is apparently an issue many consumers are facing these days. Other use cases could be shipping labels embedded with batteries that could send real-time data to the internet. Importantly, in both use cases, packaging can be discarded without added environmental concerns.
And how does the battery work? A slow release of nutrients provide the energy to the bacteria-powered batteries, which the researchers say can last up to eight days. “Slow and continuous reactions” convert the microbial nutrients into “long standing power,” they say in their paper’s abstract. “Our bio-battery is low cost, disposable, and environmentally-friendly,” Choi says.
Ultimately, Choi believes that the power-creating bacteria could even be introduced naturally by the environment, however at the moment it is added on by the scientists.