SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Electrolysis

308

Access to safe drinking water is a human right, crucial to combat inequalities, reduce poverty and allow sustainable development. In many areas of the world, however, this right is not guaranteed, in part because of the lack of easily deployable diagnostic tools. Low-cost and simple methods to test water supplies onsite can protect vulnerable communities from the impact of contaminants in drinking water. Ideally such devices would also be easy to dispose of so as to leave no trace, or have a detrimental effect on the environment. To this aim, we here report the first paper microbial fuel cell (pMFC) fabricated by screen-printing biodegradable carbon-based electrodes onto a single sheet of paper, and demonstrate its use as a shock sensor for bioactive compounds (e.g. formaldehyde) in water. We also show a simple route to enhance the sensor performance by folding back-to-back two pMFCs electrically connected in parallel. This promising proof of concept work can lead to a revolutionizing way of testing water at point of use, which is not only green, easy-to-operate and rapid, but is also affordable to all.

Concepts: Water, Electrochemistry, Toxicity, Electrolysis, Sustainability, Water quality, Fuel cell, Microbial fuel cell

235

Here we explore the electrochemical performance of pyrolyzed skins from the species A. bisporus, also known as the Portobello mushroom, as free-standing, binder-free, and current collector-free Li-ion battery anodes. At temperatures above 900 °C, the biomass-derived carbon nanoribbon-like architectures undergo unique processes to become hierarchically porous. During heat-treatment, the oxygen and heteroatom-rich organics and potassium compounds naturally present in the mushroom skins play a mutual role in creating inner void spaces throughout the resulting carbon nanoribbons, which is a process analogous to KOH-activation of carbon materials seen in literature. The pores formed in the pyrolytic carbon nanoribbons range in size from sub-nanometer to tens of nanometers, making the nanoribbons micro, meso, and macroporous. Detailed studies were conducted on the carbon nanoribbons using SEM and TEM to study morphology, as well as XRD and EDS to study composition. The self-supporting nanoribbon anodes demonstrate significant capacity increase as they undergo additional charge/discharge cycles. After a pyrolysis temperature of 1100 °C, the pristine anodes achieve over 260 mAh/g after 700 cycles and a Coulombic efficiency of 101.1%, without the use of harmful solvents or chemical activation agents.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Chemical element, Battery, Electrolyte, Electrolysis, Lithium-ion battery, Lithium, Agaricus bisporus

220

We have developed an implantable fuel cell that generates power through glucose oxidation, producing 3.4 μW cm(-2) steady-state power and up to 180 μW cm(-2) peak power. The fuel cell is manufactured using a novel approach, employing semiconductor fabrication techniques, and is therefore well suited for manufacture together with integrated circuits on a single silicon wafer. Thus, it can help enable implantable microelectronic systems with long-lifetime power sources that harvest energy from their surrounds. The fuel reactions are mediated by robust, solid state catalysts. Glucose is oxidized at the nanostructured surface of an activated platinum anode. Oxygen is reduced to water at the surface of a self-assembled network of single-walled carbon nanotubes, embedded in a Nafion film that forms the cathode and is exposed to the biological environment. The catalytic electrodes are separated by a Nafion membrane. The availability of fuel cell reactants, oxygen and glucose, only as a mixture in the physiologic environment, has traditionally posed a design challenge: Net current production requires oxidation and reduction to occur separately and selectively at the anode and cathode, respectively, to prevent electrochemical short circuits. Our fuel cell is configured in a half-open geometry that shields the anode while exposing the cathode, resulting in an oxygen gradient that strongly favors oxygen reduction at the cathode. Glucose reaches the shielded anode by diffusing through the nanotube mesh, which does not catalyze glucose oxidation, and the Nafion layers, which are permeable to small neutral and cationic species. We demonstrate computationally that the natural recirculation of cerebrospinal fluid around the human brain theoretically permits glucose energy harvesting at a rate on the order of at least 1 mW with no adverse physiologic effects. Low-power brain-machine interfaces can thus potentially benefit from having their implanted units powered or recharged by glucose fuel cells.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Enzyme, Hydrogen, Redox, Electrochemistry, Carbon, Electrochemical cell, Electrolysis

187

ABSTRACT Fe(II)-oxidizing aerobic bacteria are poorly understood, due in part to the difficulties involved in laboratory cultivation. Specific challenges include (i) providing a steady supply of electrons as Fe(II) while (ii) managing rapid formation of insoluble Fe(III) oxide precipitates and (iii) maintaining oxygen concentrations in the micromolar range to minimize abiotic Fe(II) oxidation. Electrochemical approaches offer an opportunity to study bacteria that require problematic electron donors or acceptors in their respiration. In the case of Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria, if the electron transport machinery is able to oxidize metals at the outer cell surface, electrodes poised at potentials near those of natural substrates could serve as electron donors, eliminating concentration issues, side reactions, and mineral end products associated with metal oxidation. To test this hypothesis, the marine isolate Mariprofundus ferrooxydans PV-1, a neutrophilic obligate Fe(II)-oxidizing autotroph, was cultured using a poised electrode as the sole energy source. When cells grown in Fe(II)-containing medium were transferred into a three-electrode electrochemical cell, a cathodic (negative) current representing electron uptake by bacteria was detected, and it increased over a period of weeks. Cultures scraped from a portion of the electrode and transferred into sterile reactors consumed electrons at a similar rate. After three transfers in the absence of Fe(II), electrode-grown biofilms were studied to determine the relationship between donor redox potential and respiration rate. Electron microscopy revealed that under these conditions, M. ferrooxydans PV-1 attaches to electrodes and does not produce characteristic iron oxide stalks but still appears to exhibit bifurcate cell division. IMPORTANCE Electrochemical cultivation, supporting growth of bacteria with a constant supply of electron donors or acceptors, is a promising tool for studying lithotrophic species in the laboratory. Major pitfalls present in standard cultivation methods used for metal-oxidizing microbes can be avoided by the use of an electrode as the sole electron donor. Electrochemical cultivation also offers a window into the poorly understood metabolism of microbes such as obligate Fe(II), Mn(II), or S(0) oxidizers by replacing the electron source with the controlled surface of an electrode. The elucidation of redox-dependent behavior of these microbes could enhance industrial applications tuned to oxidation of specific metals, provide insight into how bacteria evolved to compete with oxygen for reactive metal species, and model geochemical impacts of their metabolism in the environment.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Redox, Electrochemistry, Cellular respiration, Electrode, Electrochemical cell, Electrolysis

175

One of the most exciting areas in lithium ion batteries is engineering structured silicon anodes. These new materials promise to lead the next generation of batteries with significantly higher reversible charge capacity than current technologies. One drawback of these materials is that their production involves costly processing steps, limiting their application in commercial lithium ion batteries. In this report we present an inexpensive method for synthesizing macroporous silicon particulates (MPSPs). After being mixed with polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and pyrolyzed, MPSPs can alloy with lithium, resulting in capacities of 1000 mAhg(-1) for over 600+ cycles. These sponge-like MPSPs with pyrolyzed PAN (PPAN) can accommodate the large volume expansion associated with silicon lithiation. This performance combined with low cost processing yields a competitive anode material that will have an immediate and direct application in lithium ion batteries.

Concepts: Electron, Cathode, Battery, Electrolysis, Lithium-ion battery, Lithium, Lithium battery, Lithium-ion polymer battery

167

We reported well-integrated zinc oxide (ZnO) nanorod arrays (NRAs) on conductive textiles (CTs) and their structural and optical properties. The integrated ZnO NRAs were synthesized by cathodic electrochemical deposition on the ZnO seed layer-coated CT substrate in ultrasonic bath. The ZnO NRAs were regularly and densely grown as well as vertically aligned on the overall surface of CT substrate, in comparison with the grown ZnO NRAs without ZnO seed layer or ultrasonication. Additionally, their morphologies and sizes can be efficiently controlled by changing the external cathodic voltage between the ZnO seed-coated CT substrate and the counter electrode. At an external cathodic voltage of -2 V, the photoluminescence property of ZnO NRAs was optimized with good crystallinity and high density.

Concepts: Zinc, Battery, Electrolyte, Electrode, Electrolysis, Anode, Zinc oxide, Textile

166

A little dopey: Ta-doped titania (TiO2 ) nanotube (NT) arrays can be grown by electrochemical anodization onto low-Ta-concentration (0.03-0.4 at % Ta) Ti-Ta alloys. Under optimized conditions (0.1 at % Ta, annealing at 650 °C and 7 μm thickness), Ta-doped TiO2 NT arrays show a significantly enhanced activity in photoelectrochemical water splitting under simulated sunlight conditions.

Concepts: Photoelectrochemical cell, Electrolysis

161

The solar-powered production of hydrogen for use as a renewable fuel is highly desirable for the world’s future energy infrastructure. However, difficulties in achieving reasonable efficiencies, and thus cost-effectiveness, have hampered significant research progress. Here we propose the use of semiconductor nanostructures to create a type-II heterojunction at the semiconductor-water interface in a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) and theoretically investigate it as a method of increasing the maximum photovoltage such a cell can generate under illumination, with the aim of increasing the overall cell efficiency. A model for the semiconductor electrode in a PEC is created, which solves the Schrödinger, Poisson and drift-diffusion equations self-consistently. From this, it is determined that ZnO quantum dots on bulk n-InGaN with low In content x is the most desirable system, having electron-accepting and -donating states straddling the oxygen- and hydrogen-production potentials for x < 0.26, though large variance in literature values for certain material parameters means large uncertainties in the model output. Accordingly, results presented here should form the basis for further experimental work, which will in turn provide input to refine and develop the model.

Concepts: Hydrogen, Photoelectrochemical cell, Solar cell, Electrode, Electrolysis, Object-oriented programming, Heterojunction, Hydrogen production

153

Extracellular electron transfer (EET) is a type of microbial respiration that enables electron transfer between microbial cells and extracellular solid materials, including naturally-occurring metal compounds and artificial electrodes. Microorganisms harboring EET abilities have received considerable attention for their various biotechnological applications, in addition to their contribution to global energy and material cycles. In this review, current knowledge on microbial EET and its application to diverse biotechnologies, including the bioremediation of toxic metals, recovery of useful metals, biocorrosion, and microbial electrochemical systems (microbial fuel cells and microbial electrosynthesis), were introduced. Two potential biotechnologies based on microbial EET, namely the electrochemical control of microbial metabolism and electrochemical stimulation of microbial symbiotic reactions (electric syntrophy), were also discussed.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Metabolism, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Electrolysis, Microorganism, Microbial fuel cell

138

Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) enable recovery of electrical energy through oxidation of a wide range of substrates at an anode and simultaneous recovery of metals at a cathode. Scale-up of BESs from the laboratory to pilot scale is a challenging step in the development of the process, and there are only a few successful experiences to build on. This paper presents a prototype BES for the recovery of copper.

Concepts: Cathode, Michael Faraday, Zinc, Battery, Electrolyte, Electrolysis, Anode, Galvanic cell