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Coupling Enzymes and Inorganic Piezoelectric Materials for Electricity Production from Renewable Fuels

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journal contribution
posted on 25.04.2018, 00:00 by Susana Velasco-Lozano, Mato Knez, Fernando López-Gallego
Sustainable electricity generation is one of the major current challenges for our society. In this context, the evolution of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies has enabled the fabrication of microscopic devices to produce clean energy from a great variety of renewable sources. To expand the possibilities of energy generation, we have designed and fabricated bioinorganic generators capable to produce electricity by conversion of chemical energy from renewable fuel sources. Unlike traditional generators, the systems described herein produce mechanical energy through enzyme-driven gas production which generates vibration and pressure that are thus converted into electricity by the action of a piezoelectric component properly integrated into the device. Our generators are able to produce an electric ernergy from different renewable sources like glucose, ethanol, and amino acids, attaining energy outputs around 250 nJ cm–2 and reaching maximum open-circuit voltages of up to 1 V. In addition, the produced energy can be easily regulated by adjusting both enzyme and fuel concentration which can tune the electrical output according to the application. The systems described herein propose a new concept for self-sufficient energy harvesting that bridges biocatalysis and piezoelectricity, where the energy production is based on the piezoelectric effect triggered by enzymatic action rather than on the enzyme-driven electron transfer that governs biofuel cells. Although the electric output is too low yet to be considered an alternative for energy production, this technology opens the door to power small devices. We envision the utilization of this technology in such remote locations where mechanical energy is lacking but there are chemical energy reservoirs.