University of Leeds researchers seek to improve biofuel cellsMay 11, 2012
Biofuel cells could produce electricity from light and hydrogen
Researchers from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom have been working on ways to develop more efficient fuel cells that use biofuel. Biofuel cells, often referred to as microbial fuel cells, are attracting a great deal of attention for their ability to convert waste into electricity. Typical biofuel cells contain enzymes that are capable of converting glucose into electricity. These fuel cells typically do not produce significant amounts of energy because of their need for a large fuel source. Researchers believe that the solution to this problem can be found in light and hydrogen.
Researchers create electrode that can control biochemical reactions
Researchers have developed electrodes that are able to control the biochemical reactions that are necessary to generate electricity. Generating electrical through biochemical reactions is nothing new. The technology capable of doing this is widely used throughout the world. Blood glucose biosensors, such as those used by those with diabetes to track their blood-sugar levels, are an example of this technology. Researchers note that making a fuel cell that incorporates the same technology has been quite difficult because of conventional fuel cell technology.
Electrode could form a basis for development of new membranes for fuel cells
The electrode is capable of controlling the biochemical reactions needed for fuel cells to produce large amounts of electricity, and researchers have begun work on applying the technique they used to develop the electrode to a catalytic membrane. Researchers aim to develop a membrane that is capable of converting proteins into electricity by using the energy provided by light and hydrogen fuel. Such a membrane would increase the electricity production of biofuel cells as they would have access to an expansive source of fuel.
Biofuel cells dependant on technological advances in order to compete with conventional variants
Researchers believe that the advances made to biofuel cell technology could make these energy systems more viable. Conventional fuel cells are already the subject of acclaim for their ability to produce large quantities of electricity, but this acclaim has largely been lost on biofuel cells. Until these energy systems can be made more efficient, researcher believes that they will struggle to compete with their more mainstream counterparts.