Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to body tissues. It is crucial for life. What if hemoglobin could also be used in devices like zinc-air batteries, where oxygen is important? Scientists developed the first-ever battery using hemoglobin that has several advantages and can work for around 20 to 30 days.
Researchers at the University of Cordoba’s Chemical Institute for Energy and the Environment have successfully created the world’s first biocompatible battery using hemoglobin, which is not harmful to the body. This will help electrochemical reactions, working for about 20 to 30 days. This revolutionary battery harnesses the power of hemoglobin in the electrochemical reaction, converting chemical energy into electricity.
Manuel Cano Luna, a UCO researcher explains, “To be a good catalyst in the oxygen reduction reaction, the catalyst must have two properties: it needs to quickly absorb oxygen molecules, and form water molecules relatively easily. And hemoglobin met those requirements.”
The team comprises the following:
- The Physical Chemistry (FQM-204) and Inorganic Chemistry (FQM-175) groups at the University of Córdoba (UCO)
- A team from the Polytechnic University of Cartagena
Cartagena’s team is aiming to verify and develop the promising properties of hemoglobin for the redox process of energy generation. This initiative stemmed from a study by the University of Oxford and a Final Degree Project at the UCO, demonstrating the potential of hemoglobin in this type of system.
Their new study suggests battery options for the growing demand for mobile devices and the increasing use of renewable energies. This is important because current lithium-ion batteries face issues with lithium scarcity and environmental impact.
Working of Hemoglobin Battery
Zinc-air batteries are the most sustainable alternatives to presently used lithium-ion batteries. In the newly developed batteries hemoglobin would be functioning as a catalyst.
- This will facilitate the electrochemical reaction, Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR).
- This leads the air to enter the battery for reducing oxygen and transforming into water in the cathode or positive pole of the battery.
- Thus, electrons are released that pass to the negative pole or anode of the battery. This is where zinc oxidation occurs.
Pros of Zinc-Air Hemoglobin Battery
The battery prototype they have developed showcases not only strong performance but also other significant advantages.
- Zinc-air batteries are more durable and can handle tough weather conditions, unlike other batteries that are affected by humidity and need special manufacturing environments.
- Furthermore, Cano Luna points out that the use of hemoglobin as a biocompatible catalyst shows great promise for the integration of this type of battery in medical devices like pacemakers.
The battery works at pH 7.4, similar to blood pH. Animal protein (hemoglobin) can also be used because it’s found in most mammals.
Scientists developed the first-ever battery using hemoglobin, but it still has some room for improvement. Its main drawback lies in being a primary battery that can only discharge electrical energy and cannot be recharged. However, the team is already taking the necessary steps to seek out another biological protein capable of converting water into oxygen, effectively enabling the battery to be recharged. Furthermore, it is important to note that these batteries would require the presence of oxygen to function, making them unsuitable for use in space.