Advancements in Electric Fuel Cells

Increase of Electrical Properties using a Novel Mixed Buffer System in an Enzyme Fuel Cell

Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering 2009, 14: 687-693

Jin Young Lee1, Hyun Yong Shin1, Seong Woo Kang1, Chulhwan Park2, Kyeong Keun Oh3,
and Seung Wook Kim1*

This scientific paper explores the myriad opportunities afforded by the emerging biofuel cell market beyond the traditional chemically based catalysts which are both harmful to the environment and require high temperatures to proceed efficiently. The authors of this paper provide us with an extremely efficient and environmentally friendly alternative: electrical fuel cells which take advantage of naturally¬† conceived biocatalysts in the form of enzymes. The only issues with this system are that it has relatively low activity levels and it mandates a very precise, finely controlled “buffer” which must be charged with exactly the right amount of electricity to increase the ionic strength to a point where these biofuel cells could replace their chemical counterparts. The electrical catalysts are used in conjunction with enzymes to generate power, another reason why the specific pH of the buffer is so critical.

After an obscene amount of immensely complicated tests involved in selecting the type of cathode needed and precise combination of buffer components needed to maximize ionic strength, it was determined that the combination of a gold cathode and a mixed phosphate/ MOPS buffer solution had a positive effect on the electron transfer in the MP-11, creating an increase in peroxidase activity and thus an increase in ionic strength. The productivity of biofuel cells with this “mixed-buffer” was almost double that of cells run with only a phosphate or MOPS monobuffer. This advancement in technology is hopefully a harbinger of similar discoveries which will help make electric fuel cells a reality.

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