Vol. 1, Issue 23, October 21, 2003
Electricity Squeezed out of Beer
Canadian researchers have demonstrated a new way of producing electricity from flowing beer which could provide power for anything from mobile phones to the national grid.
Professors Daniel Saussure and Larry Searle in the Molsen Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta report in the Journal of Microbrewing and Microengineering a new method of generating electric power by harnessing the natural electrokinetic properties of an alcoholic liquid, such as ordinary beer, when it is pumped through tiny microchannels.
"We would like to stress that considerable testing was necessary," said Saussure, "and we anticipate significant testing remains before this becomes fully realized."
The technique is based on understanding that when a non-conducting glass container is filled with water, the glass develops a tiny electric charge while the beer takes on the opposite charge.
The Canadian researchers hypothesized that if fine, crisp Molsen beer was continually pumped through tiny glass tubes, the beer would continually sweep away the tiny charge and generate an electric current.
To their delight, they were able to illuminate a real light bulb by exploiting this coupling between an electrokinetic phenomena and the flowing lager.
"This discovery has a huge number of possible applications," Searle said. "It is important, however, to realize that this will only work with fine Canadian beer."
Congressional officials have expressed concern about the Canadian technology.
"Our failure to invest properly in American brewery-related power research has placed us in a difficult situation," said Wesley Clarke of the American Power Grid Consortium. "I want to see a Budweiser-powered system in place by 2004, and I want Congress to provide $1.2 billion to make it happen."
Molsen hopes to develop the prototypical device into a battery for eventual commercial use and has filed patent applications in Canada and the United States. An application in Britain was refused on the grounds that the technology comprised a "criminal misuse of perfectly good beer."