Using microorganisms, particularly bacterial cells, as a novel precursor to synthesize heterogeneous carbon materials as electrocatalytic catalysts for key electrochemical reactions
A few electrochemical reactions are important for sustainable energy conversion. For example, using renewable energy sources generated electrical energy to reduce water through hydrogen evolution reaction is a sustainable route of producing hydrogen as an energy carrier. Electrocatalytic oxygen reduction reaction and hydrogen oxidation reaction are critical in energy conversion systems such as fuel cells. The conversion of CO2 directly to liquid fuels by renewable energy is a potential solution to the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. Electrocatalysts of high catalytic activity, durability, and low cost are needed for these reactions. Precious metals, such as platinum and its alloys, usually have good catalytic activities for some of these reactions. However, their large-scale commercialization is restricted by a shortage of these precious metals, high cost, and poor durability. As sustainable metal-free catalysts, many types of carbon-based materials have been explored as electrocatalysts, including CNTs, graphene, fullerenes, mesoporous carbon structures, and a wide range of their derivatives, such as, carbon quantum dots, nanocage, nanofibers, nanoribbon, nanocaspuslate, and nanohorn. It is often found that the incorporation of heteroatoms, such as nitrogen (N), oxygen (P), boron (B), phosphorus (P), or sulfur (S) in carbon materials, can significantly change their catalytic activities. Most of the current methods used to synthesize heterogeneous carbon materials require high purity chemicals and gases, excessive amount of strong acids and bases, or costly organic precursors. It is therefore desirable to develop a green and cost-effective process that can synthesize heterogeneous carbon materials with high electrocatalytic activities. We are using microorganisms, particularly bacterial cells, as a novel precursor to synthesize heterogeneous carbon materials as electrocatalytic catalysts for key electrochemical reactions.
The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2032