Batteries made of potatoes could power developing world -

Now the TechEye office has gone carb-free, we'd been wondering what to do with all the spuds that we got the work experience lad to plant back in spring.

We had to do it: the Fire Brigade was making a terrible fuss about our siting of the deep fat fryer in the stationery cupboard. And in any case, our particular brand of dress-down Fridays only works for the most sylphlike of figures.

But there's no denying the sacks of King Edwards around the place were really getting in the way. So we're very grateful to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for finding a way of putting them to good use, while cutting our leccy bill.

The University's technology transfer arm, Yissum Research Development Company, has developed an electric battery made from boiled potatoes.

The team was enjoying its usual Friday afternoon game of 'Frankensteins and Monsters', fiddling about with zinc and copper electrodes and the remains of their lunch.

They discovered that boiling a potato before using it in electrolysis increased the power up to ten times, enabling the battery to light an LED for days and even weeks. It's because boiling reduces the internal salt bridge resistance of the potato battery - just what engineers are trying to do to optimize the performance of conventional batteries.

With the cost of Jersey Royals rocketing, the scientists thought they'd better do some sums. And it was good news: the boiled-potato battery generates energy five times more cheaply than 1.5 Volt D cells, and fifty times more cheaply than Energizer E91 cells. Indeed, it even works out a sixth of the price of using kerosene lamps.

"The ability to construct efficient vegetative batteries supplies us with a novel way of exploiting bio-energy sources, which are currently primarily used as fuel," said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, as he chitted his Desirees.

"[It] could benefit millions of people in the developing world, literally bringing light and telecommunication to their life in areas currently lacking electrical infrastructure."