New research conducted at the Concordia University is allowing the fruition of the goal of clean viable energy. Now it is possible to extend the length of time a battery like enzyme can store energy to mere seconds instead of hours. The new study would be published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The study is headed by Laszlo Kalman, Associate Professor at Concordia. in coordination with graduate students Sasmit Deshmukh and Kait Tang from the Department of Physics. The group has been working with an enzyme found in bacteria that helps in efficiently capturing social energy. The light induces charge separation in the enzyme, allowing one end to be negatively charged and the other end charged positively like a battery.
In a natural setting, this energy is used almost immediately, but Kalman has found a way to store that electrical potential and further studies found how to preserve that charge separated state of the enzyme for extended periods of time.
“We had to create a situation where the charges don’t want to or are not allowed to go back and that’s what we did in this study, “ according to Dr Kalman.
The group showed that by adding different molecules they were able to alter the shape of the enzyme and extending the lifespan of the electrical potential of the enzyme. The enzyme is often embedded in the cell’s outer layer in an area known as the lipid membrane. The structure of the enzyme allows the same to quickly recombine the charges and recover from the charge separated state.
When different lipid molecules comprise the membrane, there would be a mismatch between the membrane’s shape and embedding of the enzyme within it. The enzyme and the membrane both would eventually change their shapes to find a good common fit. These changes would make the enzyme have difficulty to recombine charges, allowing for a longer lifespan in the charged state.
Kalman added, “What we’re doing is similar to placing a racecar on snow-covered streets. The surrounding conditions prevent the racecar from performing as it would on a racetrack just like the different lipids prevent the enzyme from recombining the charges as efficiently as it does under normal circumstances.”
One of the earliest energy conversion processes is photosynthesis that has existed for billions of years. To which Kalman adds, “All our food, our energy sources, such as gasoline, coal --- everything is product of some ancient photosynthetic activity.”
For its part, the researchers are using nature’s battery to inspire more sustainable, human made energy converting systems.