Sizzle or fizzle? Scientist weighs in on soda-fueled cell phone

All this blogosphere chatter about a cell phone powered by soda got us thinking: Genius or Mountain Dew-addled nonsense?

So WalletPop contacted a real scientist to break it down for us. His response in a minute.

First, the origins of this story. An item has been circulating about one Daizi Zheng developing a cell phone for Nokia that runs on soft drinks. It will supposedly be better for the environment. The charge will supposedly last four times longer than a regular lithium battery. And it can save you money.

So went the claims on Zheng's Web site, picked up by many online and print outlets. The so-called bio battery, Zheng explained, generates electricity from the sugar with enzymes as the catalyst. "It only needs a pack of sugary drink and it generates water and oxygen while the battery dies out," Zheng wrote.

Enter our science guy. Shabbir Ahmed, an engineer who works on fuel cells for Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, told WalletPop that the idea is "conceivably possible."

"My guess is that the bacteria in this enzyme somethow breaks down the carbohydrate to produce hydrogen and that the hydrogen runs through the fuel cell and generates electric power, which then runs the battery," Ahmed said.

Ahmed didn't quibble with the money-saving promise of the product either, as long as the user had a steady stream of soda on hand (Big Gulp anyone?). Performance was another matter. "The question is," he added, "is it going to be as responsive as a battery? How fast is this reaction? Organic reactions are not known to be very fast."

In the end Ahmed gave the theoretical thumbs-up with one caveat: "We're guessing here."

Still, it sounds like he knows a heckuva lot more about this than this biochem-compromised blogger. At least we were equally fascinated.

Said Ahmed: "It takes your imagination to, 'How about that?' "

Let's keep in mind that this bio battery, if it's legitimate, is in the planning stage. Asked when the Coca Cola-fueled phone might be available, a woman who answered the phone at a Chicago Nokia Store answered, "I've never heard of this device, so I think you'll have to wait a little longer."

WalletPop would love to know exactly how much longer, but a message left with Nokia's White Plains, N.Y., office went unreturned.

We did, however, manage to catch up to a worker at a Brooklyn., N.Y., Radio Shack, which sells Nokia phones.

"That sounds like an interesting idea," he told WalletPop. "I wonder how they'll pull it off."

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