February 24, 2024

First Biocompatible Battery Using Hemoglobin Developed by University of Cordoba

Researchers at the Chemical Institute for Energy and the Environment (IQUEMA) at the University of Cordoba have successfully developed a battery prototype that uses hemoglobin as a catalyst for electrochemical reactions. The battery, which functions for approximately 20-30 days, utilizes hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells responsible for oxygen transport in the body, to facilitate the electrochemical process in zinc-air batteries.

The research team, in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Cartagena, conducted a study based on previous research by the University of Oxford and a Final Degree Project at the UCO, which demonstrated promising properties of hemoglobin for the reduction and oxidation (redox) process in energy generation. This led to the development of a biocompatible battery, utilizing hemoglobin for the electrochemical reaction that converts chemical energy into electrical energy.

Zinc-air batteries, known for their sustainability and potential as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, would use hemoglobin as a catalyst in the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). In this process, air entering the battery is reduced, transforming oxygen into water at the cathode (positive pole), releasing electrons that pass to the anode (negative pole), where zinc oxidation occurs.

According to Manuel Cano Luna, a researcher at UCO, hemoglobin proved to be a suitable catalyst for the ORR, as it quickly absorbs oxygen molecules and easily forms water molecules. The prototype battery was successfully operated using only 0.165 milligrams of hemoglobin for a period of 20 to 30 days.

In addition to its performance, the developed battery prototype offers other advantages. Zinc-air batteries are more sustainable and can withstand adverse atmospheric conditions compared to batteries affected by humidity and requiring an inert atmosphere for manufacturing. Furthermore, the use of hemoglobin as a biocompatible catalyst opens up possibilities for integrating batteries into the human body, such as in pacemakers, as the battery operates at a pH similar to that of blood and hemoglobin is present in almost all mammals.

However, the battery prototype has some limitations. It is a primary battery that only discharges electrical energy and is not rechargeable. The research team is currently working on finding another biological protein that can convert water into oxygen to recharge the battery. Additionally, the batteries require the presence of oxygen, making them unsuitable for use in space.

Published in the journal Energy & Fuels, this study presents new possibilities for functional alternatives in batteries, especially in the context of increasing mobile device usage and the growing demand for renewable energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries, the most common type used today, face challenges such as lithium scarcity and environmental concerns regarding hazardous waste.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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