Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sweet Technology

Despite my admittedly bad eating habits, my wife and I do a really good job of making our kids eat healthily. We feed them mainly organic food, with as much vegetables and fruit we can get them to consume. We keep them away from processed food, and never give them fast food. We also limit the amount of sugar they consume – no colas or candy, and almost no desserts or even fruit juices. Of course, if you've read any of my blog, you know I'm a gluttonous freak when it comes to just about any food that's bad for me. Sooner or later the kids will catch on to my hypocrisy, but so far I'm in the clear. I've been known to munch cookies behind pantry doors, just out of my kids' sight. "What are you eating, Dada?" one may say. "Oh, nothing, son!" I reply, crumbs flying.

Tonight I and my family attended a little party to honor a friend of ours. There was no hiding, as folks all around us were shoving chocolate cake slathered with icing down their throats, and washing it down with punch. We finally gave in and fed a piece of cake to each of our adorably healthy children, but with the best of intentions we made them wash it down with water. Moments later, though, a friend innocently gave them some of that bright red punch to drink. We couldn't very well deny them what they had already started drinking. They wanted more. We were cruel and said no. Nonetheless, the amount of sugar they had consumed kick-started them into Nitro mode, and they spent the next hour running around the meeting room. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, and the same friend who gave them the punch paid penance by baby-sitting them on the lawn and running back and forth with them. After yet another half hour at a neighboring playground, the kids were about ready to crash land.

I thought to myself, "If only we could harness sugar in our technology the same way my kids do." Every living thing converts glucose into energy, after all.

Well imagine my surprise when I got back to my computer and read that my wish had come true:

Researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri have developed a fuel cell battery that runs on virtually any sugar source. Their findings were described today at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society. That's right, sugar-holics like myself can now extend our addiction to our technology. The battery contains natural enzymes used to convert sugar into electricity, leaving only water as a byproduct. And it's all biodegradable, unlike metal batteries which contain heavy metals. Right now the researchers are testing a sugar-powered calculator battery, but intend to extend the technology to cell phones and even laptops and other portable electronics.

Oops, is your cell phone running out of "juice"? No problem, just inject a little flat soda into it (which I have on-hand at just about any moment, just as long as it isn't carbonated, which harms the charge). Out in the woods and can't power your iPod? Just find some tree sap. Camcorder battery low and you're at a party? Don't give the punch to your kids, put it in the camcorder instead. Any sugar source will work – really! Plain ol' sugar water is best, though.

Imagine the potential for economically-depressed areas, emergency situations, or military uses.

So some day you may be walking through the mall when your battery starts dying. Just walk up to your local vendor and say, "I'll take a Pepsi. Make it a medium size, please, and add a little extra for my cell phone." Just don't give any to my kids, or you'll be the one babysitting them for the next couple hours.

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