Sunday, September 20, 2009

Viologen-Mediated Direct Carbohydrate Fuel Cell 3

Dear Dr. Dean Wheeler,

I stumbled upon the abstract of your latest paper on on the viologen direct carbohydrate fuel cell in the J. Electrochem Soc. I am very interested how you solved the problem of directly associating the viologen with the electrode to make possible more significant current densities. I am also happy that you have demonstrated that carbohydrate is fully oxidized to formate and carbonate and the reaction is not just the one electron pair activity of a reducing sugar.

Other than paying 24$ is that any other way I can get a copy of the paper? Also, I am curious if there are any other groups working on this project and what kind of response the paper has generated. Also, I am curious if the paper has demonstrated enough of a proof of concept and reduction to practice that BYU is interested in a patent. At the time I spoke with them about it in 2001 after building the first viologen direct-carbohydrate/
formaldehyde/etc voltaic cells they were not interested. BYU seemed to me to be an unusually tough place to file a patent. It seems you have to have whatever packaged with buyers waiting before they take you seriously. Dr.Daniel Simmons found that out with the COX-2 work.

Also, it seems to me that the trick with the viologen electrode is that the viologen is able to stabilize the separation of electron pairs in the carbohydrate into radicals which then can then interact and be conducted by metal. My view has been that the reasons hydrocarbons and carbohydrates fail to interact with metal is the stability of the electron pairing and the inability of metals to conduct electron pairs. Biological physiology uses carbohydrates and fats to store energy and uses mediators such as NADPH and FAD, which act like viologen, to stabilize the single electron radical and single electron transfers.

So, in the case with viologen we are stabilizing single electron transfers and the separation of molecular electron pairing. On the other side, I wonder is a fuel cell could be made that would conduct electron pairs directly using a superconductor as an electrode. I don't know much about superconductors, and if cooper pairs in a superconductor are at all relate to molecular electron pairs. I have wondered if a cryogenic fuel cell could be made using liquid methanol and a superconductor. Is there a salt bridge or PEM that would work at those temperatures.

I am so excited that Dr. Watt was able to pass this project on. This project deals with, I think, the most significant and important scientific problem of our generation. The mediated direct carbohydrate fuel cell gets past many of the hangup of other fuel cell designs. A hydrogen economy has difficulties with storage and hydrogen leaking out of fittings as well as the conversion of current energy infrastructure. Hydrogen, reforming hydrogen, and direct methanol systems also has a problem at the platinum catalysts due to cost and CO poisoning. Enzymatic and bacterial fuel cell systems are just not robust enough for practical use. Direct mediated carbohydrate fuel cells is exactly how biologic systems do it. Cellulose and other waste organics could be used as a renewable source of carbohydrate fuel. Viologen or paraquat, or "roundup" is already produced and used worldwide (not currently in the US) as a common herbicide.

Due to the potential significance of this project to science, geo-politics, and humanity in general; I hope you can understand my continued interest in the project and I hope you are not bothered by an occasional email on this subject. While the ferritin nano-battery was originally Dr. Watt's idea this viologen-carbohydrate fuel cell was originally mine. But I never got past producing the first voltaic cell and associating the viologen with the electrode. But we did work to partially demonstrate that glucose and other carbohydrates were fully oxidized to formate and carbonate and that we were not just seeing the activity of a common reducing sugar.

I am grateful for your work on this project and wish you well in your future work.

David Brosnahan

Viologen Catalysts for a Direct Carbohydrate Fuel Cell J. Electrochem. Soc., Volume 156, Issue 10, pp. B1201-B1207 (2009)

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