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Biodegradable battery to boost HIV test in local communities


HIV test. PHOTO: TheConversation

Patients infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) would have to spend less to check their status as a group of scientists have developed a biodegradable battery, to test for the infectious disease.

The biodegradable battery, which is fuelled by bacteria, according to the scientists could fuel disposable HIV tests, glucose sensors and other medical devices in poor countries where electrical sources are sparse.

According to experts, many people living with HIV in are unaware of their status, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Health Observatory (GHO) data, estimates that 36.9 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2017.Nigeria, which has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world and one of the highest rates of new infection in sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 3.2 million people living with HIV, as it continues to fall short of providing the recommended number of HIV testing and counselling sites.


The Researchers at the State University of New York, Binghamton, made the batteries using ‘exoelectrogens’ – bacteria that can transfer electrons outside of their cells.
The microbes were then freeze-dried and placed on a paper surface, which was layered with strips of metals and other materials.

Meanwhile, the electrons generated naturally by the microbes passed through their cell membrane and made contact with the battery’s electrodes, which allowed the scientists to create a small electrical circuit that generates enough charge to power small, portable devices while producing little electrical waste.Although, the researchers activated the battery, using saliva or water, which awoke the bacteria from their dormant state.

The findings, which were presented at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, showed that a prototype, which was created by the team, was capable of powering a calculator or a light-emitting diode – a small semiconductor light source. A co-author, Dr Seokheun Choi explained that there has been a dramatic increase in electronic waste, which may be an excellent way to start reducing it.

The structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible, and can be used once and then thrown away, with a shelf life of around four months.He said the prototype exhibited a much higher power-to-cost ratio than all previously reported paper-based microbial batteries.

Although, the structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible, and can be used once and then thrown away, with a shelf life of around four months, the researchers said the technology could likely power medical equipment in poorer countries.

They noted that in remote areas of the world, health care workers often lack electricity to power diagnostic devices, while the electrical outlets and batteries are luxuries, with commercial batteries likely to be too expensive. Meanwhiule, Choi and his team tested for oxygen and how it affected the technology’s performance.In other batteries, the gas had reduced the movement of charge by absorbing electrons produced by bacteria before they reach the electrode.

However, the new device was slightly impeded by oxygen because the bacteria are tightly attached to its paper fibres, meaning the electrons are shifted to the anode before they can be absorbed by oxygen.Dr Choi said newer versions of the power source could be stacked and connected to boost power generation, adding that studies are on going on ways to improve the survival and shelf-life of the freeze dried bacteria.
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