Present position: Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Saint Louis University, School of Arts and Sciences
Degrees: B.S., Western Illinois University; M.S. and Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry, University of Iowa
Area of research: Electrochemical sensors, processes, and fuel cells
How you describe your research at cocktail parties: I try to make environmentally friendly batteries that last longer.
Describe how your new biofuel cell battery works: We've created a biofuel cell battery that runs off of alcohol and enzymes, which act as a catalyst to get the reaction needed to produce electricity. Rather than recharging electrically, you recharge by periodically adding more fuel—in this case, a few drops of alcohol.
What kind of alcohol have you experimented with? Everclear pure alcohol, vodka, gin, flat beer, and white wine.
How does the biofuel cell battery compare to other batteries? Most batteries are heavy-metal based, which is environmentally unfriendly. The biofuel cell battery is the most environmentally friendly because it is completely biodegradable.
What was your greatest challenge in developing the biofuel cell battery? Creating the ideal environment for the enzyme. We had to develop a membrane to constrain the enzyme and prevent it from unraveling and becoming inactive. Since we didn't know the size of the enzyme, we had to use trial and error. Now, we found that the best shape for the enzyme is spherical, but we're still investigating the best pore size.
What is your goal in developing the biofuel cell battery? We need 500 mW to run a cell phone, so right now we're trying to increase the surface area and power density of the battery. Currently, it has a power density of 3 mW/cm2.
Contact Minteer at