Yulin Deng Discovers a Novel Method to Convert Biomass Directly to Electricity

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Professor Yulin Deng and his Georgia Tech students have published exciting research to convert biomass to electricity directly.  The solar-induced fuel cell is powered with biomass without the need of purification or complicated pretreatment.

His paper, “Solar-induced direct biomass-to-electricity hybrid fuel cell using polyoxometalates as photo-catalyst and charge carrier” was published in February in Nature Communications.

Dr. Deng and his group directly converted natural biomass materials, such as starch, cellulose, lignin, switch grass, wood powders, algae, poultry manufacture wastes and animal excrement to electric power.  The conversion was accomplished with the assistance of a catalyst activated by solar or thermal energy.

“This research shows that any type of biomass can be converted to electricity at room temperature.  Our work offers a generic approach to utilizing many kinds of biomass and organic waste to produce electrical power without the need for expensive and extensive purification of the biomass feedstock,” Dr. Deng says.  He explains that the biomass is oxidized by polyoxometalates under solar irradiation and the reduced polyoxometalate is oxidized by oxygen through an external circuit, producing electricity.

Summing up the potential of the work, Dr. Deng observes “Solar energy and biomass are both sustainable energy sources.  We have shown that we can make the two work together to produce energy.”

The reviewers from Nature Communications said:  “The results may even open up new avenues in photoelectrochemistry and energy conversion, and are therefore very important. I anticipate the paper will be read primarily by researchers in the photoelectrochemistry, bio-energy, fuel cell, and photocatalysis communities, but may also attract even wider attention. Rapid dissemination is warranted. The paper may be one of the most cited papers in at least one of these fields this year.”

Dr. Deng’s Georgia Tech team includes Wei Liu, Wei Mu, Mengjie Liu, Xiaodan Zhang and Hongli Cai, all from the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering or the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech.
The paper can be found at:


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Amna Jamshad
  • Created:06/04/2015
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016