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PICACHU: Safe, Small, and Sustainable.
Adaptable to severe environments
The ultimate solution for global energy crisis
We are in an energy crisis: fossil fuels will run out in 2060, and other sustainable energy sources either take up expansive natural habitats or are inefficient. Our product, PICACHU, a biological battery manufactured by synthetic biology engineering, offers a cutting-edge solution for our sustainable future. Generating electricity from the ambient humidity, PICACHU produces zero negative effect of the environment during the power generation, which is impossible even for solar panels and wind turbines. Meanwhile, the ultra-lightweight (0.74 gram/unit) and compact design (1cm2/unit) of power units eases long-distance distribution as well as scalability of power generation. As long as humidity is present, PICACHU can be accessed in the most extreme environments such as underground and underwater facilities, forests, desert, and even space stations. PICACHU’s extensive feasibility allows its power to be easily accessed at any time and at any places.
Power and Energy density of PICACHU compared to other mainstream energy sources:
Production Material Costs
For each round of production, 14 PICACHU batteries can be produced. We have calculated how much material one round of production would need. Then we divided that number by 14 to get the amount of materials needed for the production of one battery. That number is then multiplied by the price/unit to yield the price of each material needed to produce one battery. For machines, we estimated that each machine has a product lifetime of 5 years and calculated the hourly cost of operation. Then, the cost of operation per battery was also calculated. The cost of production for one unit of the PICACHU battery is 17.58 yuan.
Understanding the market
In August, we took a trip to Floridum Wetland park and discussed our project with the directors there. They expressed great interest about this kind of self-sustaining, small battery. The directors told us that their greatest concerns were monitoring the long shoreline in an eco-friendly manner. The reservation is huge, and they said that they would appreciate some device to prevent theft, illegal trespassing, logging, and igniting fires.
In September, we connected with Cesar Jung-Harada, the founder and director of MakerBay located in Hongkong. He presented his previous project of ocean waste tracing. The detector he designed was in the shape of a coconut, and it can report data such as wind and water speed, temperature, and litter amount in the ocean along its floating path. The ocean detector was fabulous in all aspects, but Mr. Jung-Harada admitted that the device is not 100% bio-degradable since it uses lithium battery. He couldn’t find a battery that is tiny, environmentally friendly and long lasting enough to fit in the detector.
Through these trips, we found that there is a great need for light and sustainable batteries, especially when they are employed to the natural environment. Collaboratively, we came up with 2 possible applications respectively to the scenarios described above.
1) For Floridum Wetland park, we want to build micro cameras and bio-sensors powered by PICACHU onto the trees along the shoreline and some sporadic places inside the woods. The sensors would transmit signal by detecting the carbon dioxide and other critical gases, along with footage, to the main control room spontaneously. Once the amount of carbon dioxide gets abnormally high, it would trigger a warning and ask the managers for special attention. Even if PICACHU gets damaged in the wild, it will poise no threat to its surrounding environment.
2) As for the MakerBay project, we proposed to use place PICACHU in the circular device. It would be able to withstand a long voyage on the sea and provide constant electricity in replace of the lithium battery.
Future Application: Saving Migratory Birds
Birds are a key indicator of Shenzhen’s future?
Shenzhen is a coastal city with mangrove areas around 24%. These wetland reservations are a precious attribute to the highly advancing and technological city. Every year, more than 100, 000 birds would temporarily stop at these areas to revitalize for their long migration. The mangrove in the Futian district is the largest of all. It not only behaves as a natural habitat for 189 species of birds but also acts as a provider for fresh air, water, and ecosystem stability in Shenzhen. (1)
Every single species in a biological chain is crucial for the ecosystem to sustain and operate. The main protagonist, migratory birds, in the mangrove setting is thus the key to the well-being of Shenzhen. By tracking the bird migration data, researchers can disclose the amount of plantation, climate change, and population trends of an environment. Researchers have found that "in particular, short‐distance migrants appeared to respond to changes in temperature, while mid‐distance migrants responded particularly strongly to changes in the Southern Oscillation Index."(2) These indicators could be used by the government to navigate the current city environment and formulate plans for the future.
Current battery disadvantages
The current way of tracking birds is very limited. Most researchers would use geologgers, a light sensor with a small battery. Rather than gathering the exact positions of the birds, the light sensor only “stores light-level data at regular intervals”(3) using the light intensity and angle of the sun. Geologers can only generate 2 data points each day, with one during the day and one during the night. Besides limited tracking points, the devices also have some environmental danger. Since not all birds return from migration, and many devices accidentally get lost in the wild, the lithium batteries pose a threat of chemical leakage.
How PICACHU enhance
We want to create a GPS device using PICACHU. It is extremely light and can last for roughly 10 months(from current research data). Adding our software system along with the device, these properties could make sure to track the birds in real-time without much burden. This lightweight, spontaneous GPS device could be similarly applied to the tracking of pets and other animals. Most importantly, they can be completely biodegradable cells that can self-sustain—even when accidently dipped into ocean and lakes while the birds hunt for food, the battery would still operate normally and release zero toxins. This would achieve our goal of sustainability and preservation.
Shenzhen Mangrove Nature Reserve https://www.topchinatravel.com/china-attractions/shenzhen-mangrove-nature-reserve.htm
Bird migration times, climate change, and changing population sizes https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01619.x
University of Oklahoma Animal Migration Research Group http://animalmigration.org/geolocation/index.html