Alcohol Fuel Cell Goes Micro

A new innovation with fuel cells may allow a biofuel-powered microchip to replace rechargeable batteries in electronic devices

Published: 17-Dec-2004

e's a lot of energy in ethanol, which is non-toxic and can be made cheaply from corn.

Researchers from Saint Louis University, who earlier this year developed a fuel cell using enzymes to generate electricity from ethanol, have built a microchip-based version of the device.

The trick to constructing the biofuel cell was creating a sheltered environment for the enzymes, which are fairly sensitive. The researchers coated the carbon anode, or positive electrode, of the fuel cell with polymethylene green, an electocatalyst, then added a nafion membrane containing the immobilized enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase.

The biofuel cell showed an electrical potential of 0.34 volts and current density of 53 microamps per square centimeter, according to the researchers. Multiple cells can be stacked, and the device can be integrated into a computer chip.



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