Skip to main content

Biofuel Cells : From fundamentals to applications of bioelectrochemistry

Final Report Summary - BIOENERGY (Biofuel Cells : From fundamentals to applications of bioelectrochemistry)

Bioelectronic devices in general and biofuel cells (BFCs) in particular, have huge scientific and practical importance for both fundamental research and for potential applications in medicine, high-tech industry, etc. BIOENERGY developed miniaturized BFCs, while generating an in-depth fundamental understanding of their properties, which enabled the development of proof-of-principle devices demonstrating that miniaturized BFCs can be utilized as power sources in areas where miniaturization is essential. For miniaturized devices the volume of the housing is a dominant issue. Hence, the intrinsic potential to develop container-free devices makes BFC the only choice for miniaturized devices such as miniature autonomous submarines travelling through blood vessels, miniaturized power-supplies for artificial lenses or in-eye sensors etc. BIOENERGY offered the combination of education and training for the qualification of young researchers using cutting-edge science and technology in an interdisciplinary research field with strong links to the private sector with the main S&T objectives:
i) design and apply nanostructured electrode materials for BFCs with increased power output and stability
ii) substantially increase the fundamental knowledge on electrode architectures for BFCs including covalent binding and polymer entrapment of enzymes, application of nano-objects, formation of three-dimensional structures with improved mass-transport properties
iii) improve the function, activity and stability of redox enzymes used in anode and cathode reaction of BFCs by enzyme engineering as well as scaling up enzyme production
iv) provide the foundation for future miniaturized BIOENERGY devices with potential applications predominantly in medical diagnostics.
In order to achieve the S&T objectives four workpackages have been defined. WP1 dealed with the fundamentals of bioenergy devices. In the training of the BIOENERGY fellows, it is vital that they develop the ability to go beyond their specific expertise and research topic to the broader interdisciplinary framework of the project. In WP2 individual elements of bioenergy devices were developed. Components of new BFCs were individually investigated, their properties characterized and optimized and made available across the consortium. The individual elements developed in WP2 were integrated in WP3 to yield optimized electrode systems for BFCs. Finally, the assembly of complete prototype BFCs was performed in WP4.
4 experienced researchers (ER, post-doctoral students) and 11 early stage researchers (ESR, PhD-students) from 8 different European and 4 non-European countries have been recruited and have been working in BIOENERGY. A strong network has already been established leading to a lively personal contact of fellows and super-visors within the consortium and also to an active material exchange. In addition to the training through research BIOENERGY offeres training in research skills as well as in transferable skills through local and network training events. A summerschool on fundamentals of bioenergy devices and 5 scientific workshops have been organized. The fellows participated in network training events for transferable skills like teambuilding, presentation skills, scientific writing, application and interview skills, ethics in science, good laboratory practcie as well as project planning. In addition, the fellows have been introduced into IPR and patent application and special event for the ERs have been organized like an industry excursion to Daresbury Science&Technology Campus.
The project has established a new state-of-the-art for the designed fabrication of biofuel cell electrodes and biofuel cells based on the combination of enzymology, nanostructured material fabrication, enzyme immobilization and bioelectrochemistry. Within the project novel genetically engineered and chemically modified enzymes with improved activity, selectivity and stability, controlled surface orientation and immobilization capability were generated and produced in fungal expression hosts. Nano- and macroporous electrodes based on transparent (ITO), nanocrevice (Au/Ag), MWCNT, graphene, and metallic inverse opals were designed fabricated with predictable surface functionalities and electrochemical properties. In addition, generic electrode surface functionalization strategies that allow the predictable immobilization of enzymes to achieve improved stability, controlled orientation, enhanced electron transfer and surface coverage. These developments were then used to create functional biofuel cells with improved open circuit voltage, charge storage capacity and functional stability using transparent and/or high-surface area electrodes. New types of biofuel cell including biofuel cells utilizing wired bacterial cells, biological/thylakoid membranes, and photobiofuel cells, biosupercapacitors, and photobiosupercapacitors were produced. Overall the 11 ESRs and 4 ERs obtained world class training in bioelectrochemistry, enzyme engineering, surface characterization, the fundamentals of electrochemistry and electroanalytical chemistry, as well as research ethics, transferable skills, scientific outreach, and experience in industry through collaboration and placement in an overall total of 492 training months. More than 80 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, 44 oral and 49 poster presentations at international conferences were produced.
More detailed information on BIOENERGY, its scientific and education activities, the consortium and contact data can be found on the project website: