Printable biofuel cell developed in Finland

Nov 08, 2006
A printed enzyme-based power source.
A printed enzyme-based power source.

An enzyme-based power source is a viable source of electricity for the rapidly proliferating RFID tags used in the medical sector and logistics. Applications include plasters containing a memory circuit and measuring electrode for temperature, and sensors monitoring food quality. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing printable biofuel cells in which enzymes convert the energy bound in the renewable fuels - sugar, alcohols, etc. - into electricity.

VTT is developing an enzyme-based power source that converts the chemical energy bound in the organic compounds (fuels) into electricity. The enzymes act as catalysts that facilitate the use of e.g. sugar and alcohols as fuels. VTT's invention is based on the use of the fungal laccase enzyme on the cathodic compartment. A patent on the solution, which has yielded a 0.7V voltage with a current density of 20 microampere per square metre, is pending. Laccase is also suitable for printable technology applications as it retains its ability to produce electricity even when printed on paper.

Printable enzyme-based power sources are compact, inexpensive and disposable. Potential applications include sensors used in the logistics chain, temperature sensors for food products, adhesive medical sensors and printed screens. Applications will probably become more widespread in the 2010s.

The enzymes replace the traditional precious metal catalysts, and the fuel cells operate with good overall efficiency in standard pressure at ambient temperature. The ability to mass-produce the fuel cells as printable products will enable a dramatic reduction in costs. They are also disposable, thanks to the biodegradable raw materials and fuels.

The development of biofuel cells is being carried out within the framework of the Printable Miniature Power Sources project, in which the Helsinki University of Technology (coordinator), VTT and Åbo Akademi are acting as research partners. The later stages of the project concern the development of a mass production method based on printable technology. VTT is also continuing its research in an EU project concerned with the use of biofuel cells as a power source for biosensors.

Source: Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)

Explore further: Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Plastic electronics: a neat solution

Apr 09, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A breakthrough in the development of a new generation of plastic electronic circuits by researchers at the Cavendish Laboratory brings flexible and transparent intelligent materials – such ...

While you're up, print me a solar cell (w/ video)

Jul 11, 2011

The sheet of paper looks like any other document that might have just come spitting out of an office printer, with an array of colored rectangles printed over much of its surface. But then a researcher picks ...

Recommended for you

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

Apr 18, 2014

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.