Far out #3: Sugar power

Preface. No, you object, sugar in the gas tank will destroy the engine. Not true. Snopes.com says that won’t happen because sugar doesn’t dissolve in automotive fuel or caramelize, and so it does not turn into the debilitating gunk this well-known revenge calls for. Also, the sugar can’t reach the engine because of protective filters, though it can clog the fuel filter or fuel injector, which would stop the car.  The “breakthrough” below is for a sugar fuel cell, so no worries at all.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Riordan, T. June 21, 2004. A Sweet Way to Fuel Cars. For a group of researchers at Sandia National Labs, sugar in the gas tank isn’t such a bad idea. New York Times.

You may not be able to refuel your car with corn syrup or charge your computer by plugging it into a bottle of Coca-Cola anytime soon. But to Stanley H. Kravitz and a group of researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, sugar looks like the new oil.

Dr. Kravitz and his colleagues have begun to apply for patents covering ways to convert glucose, a basic form of sugar, into energy.

Glucose seems an obvious potential source for fuel. Unlike hydrogen, for example, it is renewable, cheap and abundant.

”The problem with hydrogen is that it isn’t just found in the air or lying around,” Dr. Kravitz said. ”You have to do something quite energy-intensive to break apart some molecule in order to get hydrogen.” So why aren’t other researchers trying to power their fuel cells with glucose rather than hydrogen? Glucose molecules, it turns out, are not easily persuaded to give up their energy.

Over time, naturally occurring enzymes have turned mammals into glucose-burning machines. The human body, for example, metabolizes glucose in a delicately choreographed dance. Twelve different enzymes partner in succession with the glucose molecule, each enzyme sending two electrons spinning offstage into cellular power sources and thereby fueling the body. (If the body does not need this energy when it is made, the body stores it as fat.)

One approach that Sandia researchers are taking is to genetically engineer enzymes that mimic those in the human body. ”If evolution figured it out, we should be able to figure it out,” Dr. Kravitz said.

Another approach is nonbiological, using metals like platinum to liberate electrons.

Early potential applications of glucose fuel cells would require only small amounts of energy. For example, security systems to detect movement or the presence of chemicals could use sensors that would be plugged into trees, siphoning glucose from sap for energy.

Sandia researchers are ”making electricity for electricity’s sake — as a power source.”

Dr. Kravitz and fellow Sandia researchers are developing an array of tiny glass needles, as slim and sharp as a mosquito’s proboscis, that could, for example, be imperceptibly ”plugged in” to a soldier’s arm and used to convert glucose from the human body into energy.

”Suppose you could make a patch that went on the arm and had little micro needles that didn’t hurt,” Dr. Kravitz said. ”Now the soldier just needs to eat an Oreo cookie to keep his radio going.”

So this research could solve both the world’s energy problem and the obesity epidemic simultaneously? ”That’s sort of a wild and crazy idea,” Dr. Kravitz said. ”But then again, maybe not.”

”The efficiency stinks right now,” Dr. Kravitz acknowledged, noting that so far Sandia researchers were able to produce power in the milliwatt range, enough to power a tiny light-emitting diode — while a car would require kilowatts of power.

”We’ve increased the efficiency by a factor of a thousand in a period of three years,” he said. ”But we need to go up by a factor of a million.”


Yet another researcher proposes to hydrogen from a water sugar mixture at 86 Degrees F with a mix of natural enzymes in just 5 to 10 years, which was said back in 2008, so like most promised breakthroughs, don’t hold your breath (Velasquez-Manoff 2008).


Velasquez-Manoff. 2008. Sugar-powered cars. Christian Science Monitor

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