'Wiring up' enzymes for producing hydrogen in fuel cells

Nov 19, 2007
'Wiring up' enzymes for producing hydrogen in fuel cells
Computer graphic representation of a single-walled carbon nanotube (elongated structure) Credit: Courtesy of Michael J. Heben, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Researchers in Colorado are reporting the first successful “wiring up” of hydrogenase enzymes. Those much-heralded proteins are envisioned as stars in a future hydrogen economy where they may serve as catalysts for hydrogen production and oxidation in fuel cells. Their report, describing a successful electrical connection between a carbon nanotube and hydrogenase, is scheduled for the Nov. issue of Nano Letters.

In the new study, Michael J. Heben, Paul W. King, and colleagues explain that bacterial enzymes called hydrogenases show promise as powerful catalysts for using hydrogen in fuel cells, which can produce electricity with virtually no pollution for motor vehicles, portable electronics, and other devices.

However, scientists report difficulty incorporating these enzymes into electrical devices because the enzymes do not form good electrical connections with fuel cell components. Currently, precious metals, such as platinum, are typically needed to perform this catalysis.

The researchers combined hydrogenase enzymes with carbon nanotubes, submicroscopic strands of pure carbon that are excellent electrical conductors. In laboratory studies, the researchers demonstrated that a good electrical connection was established using photoluminescence spectroscopy measurements.

These new “biohybrid” conjugates could reduce the cost of fuel cells by reducing or eliminating the need for platinum and other costly metal components, they say.

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: Semiconductor miniaturisation with 2D nanolattices

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New energy source for future medical implants: sugar

Jun 13, 2012

MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers human cells: glucose. This glucose fuel cell could be used to drive highly efficient brain implants of the future, which ...

Solar fuels as generated by nature

Aug 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Society's energy supply problems could be solved in the future using a model adopted from nature. During photosynthesis, plants, algae and some species of bacteria produce sugars and other energy-rich ...

Recommended for you

Semiconductor miniaturisation with 2D nanolattices

17 hours ago

A European research project has made an important step towards the further miniaturisation of nanoelectronics, using a highly-promising new material called silicene. Its goal: to make devices of the future ...

Magnetic nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells

Feb 25, 2015

Magnetic nanoparticles can increase the performance of solar cells made from polymers - provided the mix is right. This is the result of an X-ray study at DESY's synchrotron radiation source PETRA III. Adding ...

Researchers enable solar cells to use more sunlight

Feb 25, 2015

Scientists of the University of Luxembourg and of the Japanese electronics company TDK report progress in photovoltaic research: they have improved a component that will enable solar cells to use more energy of the sun and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.