Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Powered By Your Liquor Cabinet, 'Biofuel Cell' Could Replace Rechargeable Batteries

Date:
March 25, 2003
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
From scientists at Saint Louis University comes a gadget fit for a James Bond movie. Imagine 007 sauntering up to the bar, ordering his trademark martini (shaken, not stirred) and, before taking a sip, topping off his cell phone with a few drops of alcohol to recharge the battery.

NEW ORLEANS, March 27 — From scientists at Saint Louis University comes a gadget fit for a James Bond movie. Imagine 007 sauntering up to the bar, ordering his trademark martini (shaken, not stirred) and, before taking a sip, topping off his cell phone with a few drops of alcohol to recharge the battery.

Researchers have developed a new type of biofuel cell — a battery that runs off of alcohol and enzymes — that could replace the rechargeable batteries in everything from laptops to Palm Pilots. Instead of plugging into a fixed power outlet and waiting, these new batteries can be charged instantly with a few milliliters of alcohol. The new findings were presented today at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, in New Orleans.

Biofuel cells have been studied for nearly half a century, but the technology has not advanced to the point of practical use. Instead of using expensive metals to catalyze the power-producing reaction, these cells use enzymes — molecules found in all living things that speed up the body's chemical processes.

"The only items consumed in a biofuel cell are the fuel and oxygen from the air," says Shelley Minteer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry at Saint Louis University who presented the research. "Given the proper environment, an enzyme should last for long periods of time. It is creating this environment in a fuel cell that researchers have struggled with for years," Minteer says.

Enzymes are extremely sensitive to changes in pH and temperature, and even slight departures from ideal conditions can lead to inactivation of the enzymes, producing a short supply of power.

The typical approach to overcoming this barrier has been to immobilize the enzymes by attaching them to the electrodes, but they still tend to decay too quickly to be useful. Minteer and her colleagues coated the electrodes with a polymer that has specially tailored micelles — pores in which the enzymes find an ideal "micro-environment" to thrive. "The enzyme has everything it needs to function for a very long period of time instead of denaturing like it normally would," Minteer says. "Other biofuel cell studies have had lifetimes of a few days; our technique allows for enzyme activity over several weeks with no significant power decay. With proper optimization, these biofuel cells could last up to a month without recharging."

Most other biofuel cells have used methanol as a fuel, but the researchers chose ethanol because it supports more enzyme activity. Ethanol is abundant and cheap to make, relying on the well-established corn industry for its production. It is also far less volatile than hydrogen, which has seen a great deal of interest as a potential alternative fuel for automobiles.

Minteer and her colleagues are focusing on small-scale applications, with the preliminary fuel cells being no bigger than five square centimeters — about the size of a postage stamp. "We've tested probably 30 to 50 of the ethanol cells," Minteer says. They have successfully run their cells with vodka, gin, white wine and flat beer ("The fuel cell didn't like the carbonation," Minteer says).

While consumer applications are still a few years off, "these results show the applicability of biofuel cell technology and help move the research from a purely academic endeavor to a more practical technology," Minteer says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Powered By Your Liquor Cabinet, 'Biofuel Cell' Could Replace Rechargeable Batteries." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 March 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030325072337.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2003, March 25). Powered By Your Liquor Cabinet, 'Biofuel Cell' Could Replace Rechargeable Batteries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030325072337.htm
American Chemical Society. "Powered By Your Liquor Cabinet, 'Biofuel Cell' Could Replace Rechargeable Batteries." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030325072337.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 24, 2014) General Electric keeps quiet on reports it's in talks to buy French turbine and train maker Alstom. Ivor Bennett reports on what could be an embarrassing rumour for the French government, with business-friendly reforms proving a hard sell. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama briefly played soccer with a robot during his visit to Japan on Thursday. The President has been emphasizing technology along with security concerns during his visit. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama spoke with student innovators in Japan and urged them to take part in increased opportunities for student exchanges with the US. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins