Team:NU Kazakhstan/Future Plans

Bioremediation of Sour Crude Oil Waste using Cyanobacteria

Sulfur-doped graphene nanomaterials as a catalyst in fuel cells

It is well known that the working principle of fuel cells is much more efficient than that of batteries. However, it is still a great challenge to design inexpensive fuel cells of good quality due to many complexities present. One of them is the slow kinetics of the oxygen reduction reaction on the cathode due to the limitations of platinum as the catalyst, such as numerous defect sites, lattice boundaries and the low number of active sites on the surface. In addition to this, the high cost of platinum also impedes the production of fuel cells.

Nowadays, the application of nanomaterials in many industrial processes helps to find efficient solutions for the existing problems. Usage of the nitrogen- and sulfur-doped graphitic carbon nanomaterials as an alternative for the Pt/C catalyst is not an exception. Graphene has many outstanding electrochemical properties for this application due to its two-dimensional sp2 hybridized carbon network. Sulfur, which is dope into this material, is close in electronegativity to carbon, so the only potential catalytic centers are the defect sites. It is already proven that this kind of catalyst shows the comparable efficiency to the Pt/C catalyst and higher cycling stability and methanol tolerance [1].

Nitrogen and sulfur dual self-doped graphitic carbon nanomaterials can be synthesized using the samples of transformed cyanobacteria that we have. This can be done through the following procedure (hydrothermal method). 15 ml of transformed cyanobacterial cells with sodium sulfide in it should be centrifuged for 40 minutes at 4000 rpm. The mixture should be stirred at the room temperature for 24 hours. The formed brown precipitation should be filtrated by Buchner funnel and washed with water and ethanol several times. The produced mixture should be dried in vacuum at 80℃ overnight. The obtained powder should be pyrolyzed under pure N2 atmosphere for 3 hours with a ramp of 3℃ per minute. Then the neutral pH was adjusted by washing the sample with water and ethanol in vacuum at 80℃ overnight.

We have already started synthesizing the nanomaterials from transformed cells and we are planning to test it on the electrodes so we can understand its potential for the application in fuel cells.

Creating Virtual Laboratory

It is planned to create a virtual laboratory using augmented virtual reality in order to make a study of practical synthetic biology accessible for a wide range of audience. Unfortunately, students do not always have open access to real laboratories. Students may use VR simulations to get an idea of how real research laboratory looks like and how the basic equipment works. Basic laboratory procedures such as running gel electrophoresis, using a spectrophotometer and transforming cells will be provided in this platform. The virtual laboratory has a great potential to be an inclusive educational tool to further enhance practical knowledge of synthetic biology. On top of that, it is planned to make virtual laboratory accessible to disabled people and provide 2 additional options such as sign language translation for deaf people. This year, our team already started developing this platform and we discussed the future launch with Viron IT software development company. We collaborated with this company and had several Skype meetings, but we were not able to finish it by this year’s competition because of the project’s huge size. Our team will keep working on the development of this educational tool because we strongly believe that education should be accessible to everyone who is willing to learn.

Reference list

1. Tong, J., Li, W., Ma, J., Wang, W., Bo, L., Lei, Z., & Mahboob, A. (2018). NITROGEN and SULFUR DUAL SELF-DOPED GRAPHITIC CARBON with HIGHLY CATALYTIC ACTIVITY for OXYGEN REDUCTION REACTION. ACS Applied Energy Materials.