As kids, most folks loved the way Popeye -the sailor man saved the planet after gobbling up a can of spinach, this was one among The explanations why kids relished spinach. But what if we tell you that spinach can actually save our planet and may preserve the environment.
One of the foremost nutrient-rich leafy greens, Spinach isn’t only great for enhancing health and immunity, but at an equivalent time, t’s the potential to assist power fuel cells. As per a search by AU’s Department of Chemistry published during a leading daily, 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.
How spinach can save the earth
An oxygen reduction reaction is one among the 2 reactions in fuel cells and metal-air batteries and is typically the slower one that limits the energy output of those devices. Researchers have long known that certain carbon materials can catalyze the reaction.
But those carbon-based catalysts don’t always perform nearly as good or better than the normal platinum-based catalysts. The AU researchers wanted to seek out a cheap and fewer 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 are often made for an oxygen reduction reaction from natural resources. the tactic we tested can produce highly active, carbon-based catalysts from spinach, which may be renewable biomass,” said Prof. Shouzhong Zou, a emistry professor at AU and therefore 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.
Catalysts accelerate an oxygen reduction reaction to supply sufficient current and make energy. Among the sensible applications for the research are fuel cells and metal-air batteries, which power electric vehicles and kinds of military gear.
Researchers are making progress within the lab and in prototypes with catalysts derived from plants or plant products like cattail grass or rice. Zou’s work is the first demonstration using spinach as a cloth for preparing oxygen reduction reaction-catalysts.
Spinach may be a good candidate for this work because it survives in low temperatures, is abundant and straightforward to grow, and is rich in iron and nitrogen that are essential for this sort of catalyst.
Zou and his students created and tested the catalysts, which are spinach-derived carbon nanosheets. Carbon nanosheets are sort of a piece of paper with the thickness on a nanometer scale, thousand times thinner than a bit of human hair.
To create the nanosheets, the researchers put the spinach through a multi-step process that included both low- and high-tech methods, including washing, juicing and freeze-drying the spinach, manually grinding it into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle, and “doping” the resulting carbon nanosheet with extra nitrogen to enhance its performance
The elements showed that the spinach-derived catalysts performed better than platinum-based catalysts which will be expensive and lose their potency over time.
The next step for the researchers is to place the catalysts from the lab simulation into prototype devices, like hydrogen fuel cells, to ascertain how they perform and to develop catalysts from other plants.
You would really like to also improve sustainability by reducing the energy consumption needed for the method.