Scientists Just Made a Surprising Discovery in Beer Brewing

pint of beer in brewery
Alex Frane/Thrillist

Not that we needed another reason to appreciate beer, but it turns out that in addition to being a deliciously refreshing adult beverage, it may also hold the key to producing cheaper smartphone batteries. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, presumably inspired by the copious number of top-notch craft breweries in their midst, made the unexpected discovery that the wastewater produced during the beer-brewing process can be turned into critical components of lithium-ion batteries. Three cheers to that, y'all.

These beer-loving nerds set out to find a more sustainable use for all the nasty runoff that results from the beer-brewing process -- a noble environmental endeavor, since it takes roughly seven barrels of water to make a single barrel of beer. That wastewater byproduct can't simply be disposed of as-is; it has to go through a costly filtration process, which ultimately affects the price of your favorite local six-pack.

Incredibly, the researchers discovered that the sugar-rich after-beer is actually an ideal environment to cultivate a fast-growing fungus known as Neurospora crassa -- which not only naturally cleans the runoff, but also creates one of the most efficient, naturally derived electrodes used in lithium-ion batteries, those obnoxiously quirky power sources inside our smartphones.

While you shouldn't expect MillerCoors to start turning out iPhone batteries alongside Silver Bullet tallboys in the immediate future, the researchers have partnered with Avery Brewing in Boulder to explore a larger pilot program, and have patented the process in hopes of scaling it big-time down the road.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist who fully supports cheaper beer and better battery life.