New York: Engineers have developed the first room temperature-based fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without igniting the fuel.
A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent.
The new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power, sensors and hydrogen-powered cars.
In the study, the team from the University of Utah in the US investigated Jet Propellant-8 or JP-8 - a kerosene-based jet fuel that is used by the US military in extreme conditions such as scorching deserts or sub-zero temperatures.
"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," said Shelley Minteer, the study's senior author and professor of materials science and engineering.
"JP-8 and probably others can be used as fuels for low temperature fuel cells with the right catalysts - chemicals that speed reactions between other chemicals," Minteer added.
Converting this jet fuel into electricity is difficult using standard techniques because jet fuel contains sulphur, which can impair metal catalysts used to oxidise fuel in traditional fuel cells.
To overcome this, 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," Minteer concluded.
The study was published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Catalysis.