Jet-fueled electricity at room temperature

November 04, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 5, 2014 - 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.

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.
-end-
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
coe.utah.edu

University of Utah

Related Fuel Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

Fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles are becoming longer lasting
An international research team led by the University of Bern has succeeded in developing an electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells which, in contrast to the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier and is therefore much more stable.

Scientists develop new material for longer-lasting fuel cells
New research suggests that graphene -- made in a specific way -- could be used to make more durable hydrogen fuel cells for cars

AI could help improve performance of lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells
Imperial College London researchers have demonstrated how machine learning could help design lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells with better performance.

Engineers develop new fuel cells with twice the operating voltage as hydrogen
Engineers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St.

Iodide salts stabilise biocatalysts for fuel cells
Contrary to theoretical predictions, oxygen inactivates biocatalysts for energy conversion within a short time, even under a protective film.

Instant hydrogen production for powering fuel cells
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing and Tsinghua University, Beijing investigate real-time, on-demand hydrogen generation for use in fuel cells, which are a quiet and clean form of energy.

Ammonia for fuel cells
Researchers at the University of Delaware have identified ammonia as a source for engineering fuel cells that can provide a cheap and powerful source for fueling cars, trucks and buses with a reduced carbon footprint.

Microorganisms build the best fuel efficient hydrogen cells
With billions of years of practice, nature has created the most energy efficient machines.

Atomically precise models improve understanding of fuel cells
Simulations from researchers in Japan provide new insights into the reactions occurring in solid-oxide fuel cells by using realistic atomic-scale models of the electrode active site based on microscope observations instead of the simplified and idealized atomic structures employed in previous studies.

New core-shell catalyst for ethanol fuel cells
Scientists at Brookhaven Lab and the University of Arkansas have developed a highly efficient catalyst for extracting electrical energy from ethanol, an easy-to-store liquid fuel that can be generated from renewable resources.

Read More: Fuel Cells News and Fuel Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.