Washington, Oct 10: A wonderful source of iron, folate, chlorophyll, Vitamin E, magnesium, Vitamin A, fibre, plant protein, and Vitamin C-- Spinach, is not just good for human health, but for the environment as well. Researchers have found that Spinach, doesn't just provide energy in humans but it also has the potential to help power fuel cells.
Spinach, when converted from its leafy, edible form into carbon nanosheets, acts as a catalyst for an oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells and metal-air batteries. An oxygen reduction reaction is one of two reactions in fuel cells and metal-air batteries and is usually the slower one that limits the energy output of these devices. Researchers have long known that certain carbon materials can catalyze the reaction.
But those carbon-based catalysts don't always perform as good or better than the traditional platinum-based catalysts. The AU researchers wanted to find an inexpensive and less toxic preparation method for an efficient catalyst by using readily available natural resources. They tackled this challenge by using spinach.
"This work suggests that sustainable catalysts can be made for an oxygen reduction reaction from natural resources. The method we tested can produce highly active, carbon-based catalysts from spinach, which is renewable biomass," said Prof. Shouzhong Zou, a chemistry professor at AU and the paper's lead author.
"In fact, we believe it outperforms commercial platinum catalysts in both activity and stability. The catalysts are potentially applicable in hydrogen fuel cells and metal-air batteries," added Zou.
Zou's former post-doctoral students Xiaojun Liu and Wenyue Li and undergraduate student Casey Culhane are the paper's co-authors.