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Published July 6, 2015 | public
Journal Article Open

From Chemical Gardens to Fuel Cells: Generation of Electrical Potential and Current Across Self-Assembling Iron Mineral Membranes


We examine the electrochemical gradients that form across chemical garden membranes and investigate how self-assembling, out-of-equilibrium inorganic precipitates—mimicking in some ways those generated in far-from-equilibrium natural systems—can generate electrochemical energy. Measurements of electrical potential and current were made across membranes precipitated both by injection and solution interface methods in iron-sulfide and iron-hydroxide reaction systems. The battery-like nature of chemical gardens was demonstrated by linking multiple experiments in series which produced sufficient electrical energy to light an external light-emitting diode (LED). This work paves the way for determining relevant properties of geological precipitates that may have played a role in hydrothermal redox chemistry at the origin of life, and materials applications that utilize the electrochemical properties of self-organizing chemical systems.

Additional Information

© 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag. Received: March 19, 2015 Published online.--- This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with support by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (Icy Worlds), and supported by a JPL Planetary Instrument Advanced Concept Development grant (grant number S40AC1/ L.M.B. was supported by the NAI through the NASA Postdoctoral Program, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA. JHEC is supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (grant number FIS2013-48444-C2-2-P). We acknowledge useful discussions with members of the NAI Thermodynamics, Disequilibrium, and Evolution Focus Group, and thank Dr. Bethany Theiling for the table-of-contents photo.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023