Bacteria and graphene to produce clean energy

If the development of technologies to produce or store clean energy has long rested on law materials, since a few years scientists are investigating methods to combine micro-organisms and materials, in the aim to achieve clean energy. Recently, a team of researchers combined an electricity generating bacteria and oxide Graphene to a get a material biohybride whose energy applications are extremely broad.

Combine with carbon nanomaterials microorganisms could facilitate the transition to renewable energy. Researchers at the KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) show that the bacteria and nanomaterials can be used together to form a biohybride material that works well as electrocatalyseur. The material could be used in the production of free carbon to solar fuels and in many other applications of green energy.

A process called response to evolution of oxygen (REL) is at the heart of many clean energy technology. In the case of solar fuel production, for example, OER can use solar electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen molecules, thereby producing clean hydrogen that can be used as fuel. Currently, rare and expensive metals are used as electrocatalysts REL.

Bacteria and graphene oxide: a green biohybride material

But biohybrides graphene-based materials could be an inexpensive and eco-friendly alternative, showed Pascal Saikaly and his team. Reduced graphene oxide and graphene are highly conductive, rugged mechanical and widely available. However, they become active catalysts only after having been doped with other elements, such as sulfur, iron, nitrogen, or copper.

The Geobacter sulfurreducens proteobacterie observed with the scanning electron microscope; It generates electricity by reducing the carbon compounds. She is so alone, a source of bio-energy. Credits: Reema Bansal et al. 2015

REL graphene-based catalysts are usually developed by chemical, methods that require conditions of stringent reaction obtained with abundant toxic chemicals and high temperature " explains Shafeer Kalathil, author of the study. A more environmentally friendly alternative is to use bacteria to occupy the surface of reduced graphene oxide. " We used the electric sulfurnucens Geobacter bacteria because it is not pathogenic, rich in the iron-containing proteins and present in abundance in nature ."

A highly effective Bionic electrocatalyseur

When the team mixed the bacteria and graphene oxide in oxygen-free conditions, bacterial cells adhered to the surface and produced iron-rich proteins that interacted with graphene oxide biochemically in the as part of their natural metabolism.

As a result, reduced graphene oxide will eventually be combined with iron, copper and sulfur; becoming a highly effective REL electrocatalyseur. The details have been published in the journal Chemistry of Materials.

The information supplied by the bacteria have transformed catalytically inert graphene in a highly used catalyst. ' OER materials biohybrides activity was greater than expensive catalysts for OER metal "said Kalathil. The bonus is the ecological method used by the team to make it happen.

Saikaly and his team are now working on the production and marketing large scale of this biohybride catalyst. They also develop other types of catalysts biohybrides for other important electro-catalytiques reactions, such as the hydrogen evolution reaction and the reduction of carbon dioxide.


Bioinspired Synthesis of Reduced Graphene Oxide-Wrapped Geobacter sulfurreducens as a Hybrid Electrocatalyst for Efficient Oxygen Evolution Reaction
Chem. Mater.201931103686-3693

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