It started normally, someone, a scientist this time, bought some spinach at the grocery store, took it home, washed it and salted it a bit. The sequel is what turned out to be unusual in that the end result was not a weekend lunch but a battery.
The prototype fuel cell is the latest in a series of developments in which scientists are trying to find a way to make the high-density energy-generating molecules in spinach suitable for industrial use, Ars Technica reported. Carbon-based catalysts tend to perform less well than platinum-based ones. Lightly salted and ground spinach leaves, which were freeze-dried and heat-pressed into nanosheet layers, proved to be more efficient than platinum fuel cells, the research found.
“The results of this research confirm that oxygen reduction can be achieved with sustainably produced natural catalysts. The method we are testing can produce highly efficient carbon-based catalysts from spinach, which is effectively a renewable biomass. In fact, we believe it outperforms commercial platinum catalysts in both activity and stability,” said lead author Shouzhong Zou, a chemist at American University, in a press release.
Much remains to be done to bring the technology to market, but for now we are in the process of obtaining scientific proof of concept. But the first step taken is perhaps the most important, and the future is now on the horizon where spinach cells can be used as a cleaner, more sustainable alternative in electronics of all kinds, including batteries for electric cars.