University of Utah Engineers create fuel cell that can run without high heat
University of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors.
Shelley Minteer -- a University of Utah professor of materials science and engineering, and also chemistry -- has developed a fuel cell that can covert jet fuel to electricity at room temperature without igniting the fuel, thanks to the use of enzymes as catalysts in the reaction. The new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors.
Credit: Dan Hixson, University of Utah College of Engineering.
A study of the new cells appears online today in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Catalysis.
Fuel cells convert energy into electricity through a chemical reaction between a fuel and an oxygen-rich source such as air. If a continuous flow of fuel is provided, a fuel cell can generate electricity cleanly and cheaply. While batteries are used commonly to power electric cars and generators, fuel cells also now serve as power generators in some buildings, or to power fuel-cell vehicles such as prototype hydrogen-powered cars.
"The major advance in this research is the ability to use Jet Propellant-8 directly in a fuel cell without having to remove sulfur impurities or operate at very high temperature," says the study's senior author, Shelley Minteer, a University of Utah professor of materials science and engineering, and also chemistry. "This work shows that JP-8 and probably others can be used as fuels for low-temperature fuel cells with the right catalysts." Catalysts are chemicals that speed reactions between other chemicals.
In the new study, the University of Utah team investigated Jet Propellant-8 or JP-8, a kerosene-based jet fuel that is used by the U.S. military in extreme conditions such as scorching deserts or subzero temperatures.
Converting this jet fuel into electricity is difficult using standard techniques because jet fuel contains sulfur, which can impair metal catalysts used to oxidize fuel in traditional fuel cells. The conversion process is also inefficient, with only 30 percent of the fuel converted to electricity under the best conditions.
To overcome these constraints, the Utah researchers used JP-8 in an enzymatic fuel cell, which uses JP-8 for fuel and enzymes as catalysts. Enzymes are proteins that can act as catalysts by speeding up chemical reactions. These fuel cells can operate at room temperature and can tolerate sulfur.
An enzyme "cascade" of two enzymes – alkane monooxygenase and alcohol oxidase – was used to catalyze JP-8. Hexane and octane, which are chemically similar to JP-8, also were tested as fuels. The researchers found that adding sulfur to their enzymatic fuel cell did not reduce power production.
"Enzymatic fuel cells are a newer type of fuel cell, so they are not currently on the market," says Minteer, also a professor with USTAR, the Utah Science Technology and Research economic development initiative. "However, researchers haven't been able to use JP-8 before, because they haven't had the enzymes to be able to oxidize JP-8."
Solid-oxide fuel cells at temperatures above 950 degrees Fahrenheit have made use of JP-8, but this is the first demonstration at room temperature, Minteer says. Now that the team has shown the enzyme catalysts works, they will focus on designing the fuel cell and improving its efficiency, she adds.
Minteer conducted the study with University of Utah postdoctoral researchers Michelle Rasmussen and Mary Arugula, and with Yevgenia Ulyanova, Erica Pinchon, Ulf Lindstrom and Sameer Singhal of CFD Research Corp. in Huntsville, Alabama.
This research was funded by Northrop Grumman Corp. and the National Science Foundation through the University of Utah's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.
University of Utah College of Engineering
72 S. Central Campus Dr., Room 1650 WEB, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
801-581-6911 fax: 801-581-8692
Aditi Risbud | EurekAlert!
Scientists print sensors on gummi candy: creating microelectrode arrays on soft materials
21.06.2018 | Technische Universität München
Electron sandwich doubles thermoelectric performance
20.06.2018 | Hokkaido University
In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.
Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
21.06.2018 | Earth Sciences
21.06.2018 | Life Sciences
21.06.2018 | Earth Sciences