And after the charge gives out, you make martinis.

The Interesting Thing of the Day blog presents an interesting solution to a problem that’s deeper than most people realize. The problem is all the batteries powering our cell phones, cameras, palmtops, mp3 players and whatever else. They’re loaded with toxic chemicals (some of which are also rare enough to trigger warfare in some countries), and they just don’t hold a charge long enough to make a combination cell phone-camera-palmtop-mp3 player last long enough to be really useful. The solution, as proposed by St. Louis University researchers, is alcohol – batteries fueled by ethanol, that is:

Biofuel cells use the energy released during the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, which produces water, to generate electricity. Some biofuel cells use pure hydrogen as a fuel, although it is not ideal since it can be explosive. Fuels that can be catalyzed to produce hydrogen, such as alcohols made from the fermentation of corn (namely, methanol and ethanol), provide a more stable source of energy.

…Upon further experimentation, Dr. Minteer and her colleagues created batteries that have a lifetime of two years, and can be run on various types of alcohol, including vodka, gin, white wine, and flat beer.

Unlike lithium, copper or tantalum, you can make vodka in your back yard – and when you run out, you can grow more potatoes and make it again. There’s a slightly longer explanation of how the liquor turns into electricity at the link.