Virginia Tech University Develops Polysaccharide Fuel Cells

Virginia Tech announced that it has developed a fuel cell using a polysaccharide (thesis). This type of battery has a capacity density that is more than 10 times higher than that of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The university stated that "the use of mobile phones and tablet PCs can be achieved within three years." The battery was developed by Zhang Yiheng, associate professor at Virginia Tech University.


Zhang Yiheng (right), associate professor of Virginia Tech University who developed sugar fuel cells, and Zhiguang Zhu (left), the first author of the paper.

Self-developed enzymes become excellent catalysts

The battery developed this time utilizes polysaccharides such as maltodextrin obtained by partial hydrolysis of starch and oxygen in the air to generate electricity and water. Using artificially synthesized 13 enzymes instead of platinum (Pt) as a catalyst, electrons are extracted by oxidizing sugar.

The high capacity density is said to be due to the high efficiency of these enzymes in extracting electrons. Specifically, glucose constituting maltodextrin can extract 24 electrons each.

At present, the battery has an output power density of 0.8 mW/cm2 and a current density of 6 mA/cm2. The density density when using 15% maltodextrin was 596 Ah/kg and the energy density was 298 Wh/kg. According to reports, these values ​​"are much higher than the 42Ah/kg and 150Wh/kg of lithium rechargeable batteries." However, the output voltage of this battery is lower than the 3.6V of the lithium rechargeable battery and is 0.5V.

Although this battery has a high capacity density and energy density, it has a slower rate of action of the enzyme, so there is no danger of explosion and fire. This is different from ordinary fuel cells using hydrogen and methanol. (Reporter: Nozawa Tetsuru, Nikkei Electronics)


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