UNM professor gives insight on biofuel to ENMU students

By Tony Parra

A biofuel energy researcher informed people on Thursday in the Science Building on the Eastern New Mexico University campus about how biofuel works and it’s potential to provide a more environmentally sound energy source.

Plamen Atanassov, professor of chemical and nuclear engineering at the University of New Mexico, explained how glucose/air enzymatic biofuel cells work and how the technology is used in cars and medical devices. Atanassov is looking at advanced biofuel cells and how they can be used to power devices implanted in the body using natural chemicals in the body, and not other power sources like batteries which need to be replaced.

Atanassov, on Tuesday, said biofuel cells in some cases could be used to power vehicles. SAAB, General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. are among the companies who have invested millions of dollars in fuel cell cars. The first fuel cell cars were launched on Dec. 3, 2002.

GM officials have a goal by 2010 to provide around 40 minivans and SUVs which use fuel cells for power, according to New Energy Report Web site. Atanassov said he looks forward to the future of biofuel cell technology.

“For me personally, it’s about learning how to make better biofuel cells for our future,” Atanassov said about today’s technology.

Vehicles are powered by fuel cells, a fuel cell operates like a battery. It supplies electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen electrochemically without combustion. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. It will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied, according to the Open Source Network Web site.

Juchao Yan, an ENMU assistant chemistry professor, invited Atanassov to come to ENMU and give an informative talk on biofuel cells. Yan said Atanassov provided the people who attended the informational segment with the most up-to-date knowledge on biofuel technology. Yan said he worked with Atanassov at UNM to develop microfuel cells in 2002.

Robert Crow, an ENMU student, said he enjoyed listening to Atanassov talk about his research and the application of his research. Crow is an ENMU undergraduate studying microbiology and biochemistry.

“It was quiet interesting,” James Finley, an ENMU chemistry professor, said. “There’s a lot of potential in the application.”
Atanassov, a leading biofuel cell researcher, said biofuel technology is used in biomedical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators. Atanassov said Motorola is using biofuel technology for its cell phones. He said they are experimenting with sugar packets used to recharge cell phones.