Glucose Could Potentially Power Our Gadgets, Cars

SALT LAKE CITY – Glucose the human body’s preferred energy source – can potentially power our gadgets, cars or homes.

Researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) have developed a fuel cell – basically a battery with a gas tank – that harvests electricity from glucose and other sugars known as carbohydrates.

“Carbohydrates are very energy rich,” said BYU chemistry professor Gerald Watt. “What we needed was a catalyst that would extract the electrons from glucose and transfer them to an electrode.”

The surprising solution turned out to be a common weed killer. Watt shares his wonderfully appropriate last name with his great-great-uncle James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine.

The effectiveness of this cheap and abundant herbicide is a boon to carbohydrate-based fuel cells. Conversely, hydrogen-based fuel cells like those developed by General Motors require costly platinum as a catalyst.

The next step for the BYU team is to ramp up the power through design improvements. The study reported experiments that yielded a 29 percent conversion rate, said a BYU release.

“We showed you can get a lot more out of glucose than other people have done before,” said Dean Wheeler, study co-author and chemical engineering professor in BYU.

These findings are in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

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