In Germany, researchers combined two concepts that make the biofuel cell system as efficient as noble metal catalysts. The team combined a bioanode with a biocathode, demonstrating that it would produce an efficient working fuel cell.
Fuel cells that use the enzyme hydrogenase are in principle just as efficient as those that contain the expensive precious metal platinum as a catalyst. However, the enzymes need an aqueous environment, and through them, the starting material for the reaction – hydrogen – difficult to reach the enzyme-loaded electrode. Researchers solved this problem by linking previously developed concepts for the packaging of enzymes with the gas diffusion electrode technique. The system developed in this way achieved significantly higher current densities than previously achieved with hydrogenase fuel cells.
The team is from the Center for Electrochemistry at the Ruhr University Bochum, the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim an der Ruhr and the University of Lisbon.