Thermal biomass upgrading: Synthesizing new multifunctional catalysts


A strategy that aims for rare metal-free catalysis and global resource-circulation

Dr. Yabu holding a sea pineapple in his laboratory

Thermal biomass upgrading is a potent strategy towards synthesizing rare metal-free, multifunctional catalysts for reactions such as the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) and the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR).

One relevant example is a 2022 article by Yabu et al. from AIMR, who synthesized a rare metal-free electrocatalyst capable of simultaneous OER/ORR catalyses1. The strength of this work combined the selection of pig blood biomass and sea-pineapple cellulose-nanofibers starting materials known to produce desired functional structures (i.e., Fe complexes and N- and P-doped carbon fibers) with the detection of these structures following pyrolysis. Complementary OER/ORR performance tests confirmed the success of this approach.

Power generation experiment using nano-blood charcoal

The strategy of the 2022 article is further illustrated by the follow-up work from the same group2. Adding vitamin B12 as a third starting material, Yabu et al. introduced Co-complex structures to the final product, synthesizing a trifunctional electrocatalyst that also catalyzes the hydrogen evolution reaction in addition to OER and ORR.

“Currently, we are testing our multifunctional catalysts as high-performance zinc-air secondary-battery materials,” says Yabu. “Ultimately, we believe this biomass upgrading approach will help replace rare-metal electrocatalysts such as carbon-supported Pt, contributing to the realization of global resource- and energy-circulations.”

(Author: Patrick Han)


  1. Yabu, H., Ishibashi, K., Singh Grewal, M., Matsuo, Y., Shoji, N. & Ito, K. Bifunctional rare metal-free electrocatalysts synthesized entirely from biomass resources. Science and Technology of Advanced Materials 23, 31-40 (2022). | article
  2. Ishibashi, K., Singh Grewal, M., Ito, K., Shoji, N., Matsuo, Y. & Yabu, H. Trifunctional rare-metal-free electrocatalysts prepared entirely from biomass. Advanced Energy and Sustainability Research 3, 2200107 (2022). | article

This research highlight has been approved by the authors of the original article and all information and data contained within has been provided by said authors.