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U Study: Enzymes Make Low-Temperature Fuel Cells Possible

University of Utah
University of Utah Materials Sciences and Chemistry Professor Shelly Minteer

  Imagine a cellphone or a laptop that runs on jet fuel.  New research at the University of Utah is showing how that could happen.

Chemistry professor Shelley Minteer and her team have demonstrated how enzymes extracted from bacteria can be used to make fuel cells that operate at room temperature.  The enzymes create a chemical reaction that generates electricity from a kind of military jet fuel called JP-8.  Minteer says you don’t need much.

“If you look at our batteries,” Minteer tells KUER, “there’s actually just milligrams of enzyme in the battery, so very, very small amounts of enzyme. They don’t take up a lot of space or a lot of weight.”

While they’ve proven the process works, Minteer says a lot more work has to be done before these enzyme fuel cells become a practical power source.  Eventually, she says it could lead to long-lasting batteries for the kinds of portable electronics military service members take into the field.

The research was published Wednesday in the journal ACS Catalysis.  Minteer’s team is working with a company called CFD Research in Alabama to commercialize the discovery.

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