H density as a function of storage method.
Alternative energy pathways to replace depleting oil reserves and to limit the effects of global warming by reducing the atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide are nowadays required. Dihydrogen appears as an attractive candidate because it represents the highest energy output relative to the molecular weight (120 MJ kg-1 against 50 MJ kg-1 for natural gas), and because its combustion delivers only water and heat. Whereas the main renewable sources of energy available in nature (solar, wind, geothermal…) need to be transformed, dihydrogen is able to transport and store energy. Dihydrogen can be produced from renewable energies, indirectly from photosynthesis
dihydrogen production and generation,
dihydrogen storage and transportation,
dihydrogen conversion to electrical energy.
As opposed to widespread opinions, natural dihydrogen sources exist alone on the earth’s surface. Local and continuous emanations of dihydrogen can be observed in cratonic zones, ophiolitic rocks or oceanic ridges . Dihydrogen is effectively produced in the upper mantle of the earth through natural oxidation of iron (II)-rich minerals, like ferromagnesians, by water of the hydrosphere. The ferrous iron is oxidized in ferric iron and water is concurrently reduced in dihydrogen, as given by following equation: 2Fe2+ (mineral) + 2 H+ (water)
Combined with water and hydrocarbons dihydrogen is nevertheless the most abundant element on earth. Green means to ecologically convert H containers into dihydrogen still remain however challenging. The energetic volume density of dihydrogen is low (10.8 MJ m-3 against 40 MJ m-3 for natural gas) so that storage and transportation appear as bottlenecks for large scale development in transportation for example. Conversion of dihydrogen to electricity in fuel cells presents high electrical efficiency (more than 50% against less than 30% for gas engines), but requires the use of catalysts both for H2 oxidation and O2 reduction. These are mainly based on platinum catalysts, which are highly expensive, weakly available on earth, and non biodegradable. Extensive researches thus aim to decrease the amount of platinum catalysts in fuel cells. Following the discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) [4, 5], their large scale availability opened a new avenue in these three domains. Due to their intrinsic properties, such as high stability, high electrical and thermal conductivities  and high developed surface areas, carbon nanotubes constitute attractive materials, able to enhance the credibility of an hydrogen economy.
Besides, platinum catalysts are inhibited by very low amount of CO and S (0.1% of CO is sufficient to decrease one hundred fold the catalytic activity of Pt in ten minutes!), thus requiring strong steps of H2 purification . They are not specific to either O2 or H2 catalysis, thus requiring the use of a membrane to separate the anodic and cathodic compartments. Nafion® perfluoronated membrane is currently the only really performing polymer , increasing its cost. Replacement of platinum-based catalysts is thus highly needed. In that way, a new concept appeared less than five years ago, when looking at the pathways microorganisms use for the production of ATP, their own energetic source [9, 10]. As an example, the hyperthermophilic, microaerophilic bacterium
For all these innovative concepts, one of the key points is the increase in power density, thus in the current density furnished by a redox couple displaying a large as possible potential difference. Apart from the improvement in enzyme stability, the increase in the current densities supposes an optimization of both the interfacial electron transfer rate and the amount of connected enzymes at the electrode. Carbon nanotubes which develop large surface areas and can be functionalized constitute an attractive platform for such enzyme immobilization. CNTs are described as graphene sheets rolled into tubes. They exist under various structural configurations (single-walled (SWCNTs), multi-walled (MWCNTs)) differing in electrical properties, thus tuning the platform properties for enzyme immobilization. The end of the tubes is capped by a fullerene-type hemisphere that yields selective functionalization of the CNTs .
With the objective of dihydrogen as a future green energy vector, this review focuses on the last developments in the fuel -and more especially biofuel- cell field thanks to the advantageous use of carbon nanotubes. In a first part, carbon nanotubes for H2 storage enhancement are discussed. Then fuel cells in which carbon nanotubes help to decrease the amount of high cost noble metal catalysts are described. Green H2 economy is then emphasized considering the key role of hydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for dihydrogen conversion. This requires the functional immobilization of the biocatalysts onto electrodes. The use of carbon nanotubes in this immobilization step is underlined, including the modes of carbon nanotube functionalization and enzyme or microbes grafting. Then the advantages of developing biofuel cells in which chemical catalysts are replaced by enzymes or microbes are described. A short review of the sugar/O2 biofuel cells, the most widely investigated biofuel cell, is given with a particular attention on the devices based on carbon nanotube-modified bioelectrodes. The last developments based on carbon nanotube networks for hydrogenase immobilization, or mimicking synthetic complex immobilization, in view of efficient dihydrogen catalytic oxidation are finally described in order to allow the design of a future H2/O2 biofuel cell.
2. Carbon nanotubes: an attractive carbon material
The discovery of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) has induced breakthroughs in many scientific domains, including H2 economy, biosensors, bioelectrochemistry…This is due to their remarkable properties, such as good electronic, mechanical and thermal properties. Their nanometric size compares with that of proteins and enzymes, offering the possibility of electrical connection. Their large developed surface area allows the development of devices in smaller volumes. SWCNTs are sp2 hybridized carbon in a hexagonal honeycomb structure that is rolled into hollow tube morphology . MWCNTs are multiple concentric tubes encircling each other . Depending on the chirality, CNTs can be metallic or semiconducting. The distinction between metallic and semiconducting is very important for application, but the physical separation of allotropes is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. In MWCNTs, a single metallic layer results in the entire nanotubes metallic behavior. Most often mixtures of these two forms are present in CNTs preparation. More information on the physical and electronic structures can be found in many published reviews . CNTs are produced by various methods such as arc discharge, laser ablation, and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Commercially CNTs are generally produced by CVD during the pyrolysis of hydrocarbon gases at high temperature. The control of synthesis parameters (reagent gas, T°, metal catalysts) allows for the control of CNT properties. Metal impurities may remain in the CNTs sample, thus requiring purification steps. CNTs may be treated to functionalize the surface.
3. Carbon nanotubes for safe and efficient H2 storage
The use of H2 in fuel cells to generate electricity has been proved early in the middle of the nineteenth century. Surprisingly this discovery by C. Schönbein in 1839 of current generation by use of H2 and O2 in sulphuric acid was applied by NASA only late in 1960. Despite intensive studies over the last two decades, fuel cells still suffer from high cost and low durability. The first difficulty responsible for this slow large scale development lies on dihydrogen storage and transportation, both regarded as bottlenecks considering dihydrogen specific volumic density as a gas. For convenience the gas must be intensely pressurized to several hundred atmospheres and stored in a pressure vessel. The ways to store dihydrogen with minimum hazard are under liquid state under cryogenic temperatures (at a temperature of -253 °C), or more efficiently in a solid state. Storage of dihydrogen in hydride form uses an alloy that can absorb and hold large amounts of dihydrogen by bonding with hydrogen and forming hydrides. A dihydrogen storage alloy is capable of absorbing and releasing dihydrogen without compromising its own structure, according to the reaction: M + H2 ↔ MH2, where M represents the metal and H, hydrogen. Qualities that make these alloys useful include their ability to absorb and release large amounts of dihydrogen gas many times without deteriorating, and their selectivity toward dihydrogen only. In addition, their absorption and release rates can be controlled by adjusting temperature or pressure. The dihydrogen storage alloys in common use occurs in four different forms: AB5 (e.g., LaNi5), AB (e.g., FeTi), A2B (e.g., Mg2Ni) and AB2 (e.g., ZrV2). Metal hydrides, such as MgH2, Mg2NiH4 or LiBH4, constitute secure reserves of dihydrogen [17-19]. Dihydrogen is released from MH2 upon increase in temperature and/or decrease in pressure.
|H-atom per cm3 (x1022)||0.99||4.2||6.5||5.9||6.0||5.5|
Much progress has been made during the last years in that domain, including the highlight of the advantages offered by using CNTs. An efficient approach appears to be the formulation of new carbon/transition metal catalyst composites of specific composition and molecular structure, which can greatly stimulate and improve the chemical reactions involving dihydrogen relocation in alkali-metal aluminium materials. Absorption kinetics and dihydrogen storage capacity were shown to be enhanced by mixing MH2 with SWCNTs as a result of an increase in interfacial area, decrease in MH2 particle agglomeration and nano-platform for efficient H2 diffusion [20, 21]. The hydriding and dehydriding kinetics of SWCNT/catalyzed sodium aluminium composite were found to be much better than those of the material ground without carbon additives. Temperature of H2 desorption was lowered . The presence of carbon creates new dihydrogen transition sites and the high dihydrogen diffusivity of the nanotubes facilitates hydrogen atom transition. Faster thermal energy transfer through the nanotubes may also help reduce hydriding and dehydriding times.
Dihydrogen can be stored through physisorption on CNTs, based on Van der Waals interaction. Based on the surface area of a single graphene sheet, the maximum value for the storage of dihydrogen capacity is around 3 wt%. Dihydrogen can also be stored through chemisorption in CNTs matrix. If the π-bonding between carbon atoms were fully utilized, every carbon atom could be a site for chemisorption of one hydrogen atom. Dillon et al. first reported in 1997 dihydrogen storage in SWCNT networks . Both SWCNTs and MWCNTs store dihydrogen in microscopic pores on the tubes [24, 25]. Similar to metal hydrides in their mechanism for storing and releasing dihydrogen, the carbon nanotubes hold the potential to store a significant volume of dihydrogen. The storage capacity is dependent on many parameters of the CNTs, including their structure, structure defects, pretreatment, purification, geometry (surface area, tube diameter, length), arrangement of tubes in bundles, storage pressure, temperature,…Dihydrogen uptake varies linearly with tube diameter, because the uptake is proportional to the surface area,
4. Carbon nanotubes for a decrease in the amount of noble metal catalysts in fuel cells
Among the different types of fuel cells, PEM fuel cell operates at low temperatures around 100°C. For small portable application requiring less than 10 kW, they are more suitable than higher powering solid oxide fuel cells (functioning at 700°C) due to the possible use of usual materials for electronic connectors (mainly based on carbon) and membrane. However the necessary use of platinum-based catalysts on electronic connectors to accelerate the rate of dihydrogen oxidation and oxygen reduction is a real brake towards the fuel cell development. Platinum is scarce enough on earth to be a limiting factor in case of large scale development of fuel cells. Consequently platinum currently accounts for 25% in the total cost of a fuel cell. Over the past five years, the price of platinum has ranged from just below $800 to more than $2,200 an ounce. Carbon black particles offer a high surface area support, able to decrease the amount of platinum particles. But they suffer from mass transfer limitations and strong carbon corrosion.
Among the low-cost alternatives to platinum, carbon appears to be the most promising. Due to their nano-structure and unique chemical and physical properties, CNTs have appeared as ideal supporting materials to improve both catalytic activity and electrode stability. The enhancement of fuel cell performances by using CNT/Pt or Pt-alloy catalysts may arise from:
higher dispersion of Pt nanoparticles,
increased electron transfer rates,
porous structure of CNT layers.
Various CNT-Pt composites were used to reduce the platinum amount while preserving high catalytic activity in PEM fuel cells. Platinum nanodots sputter-deposited on a CNT-grown carbon paper , or deposited on functionalized MWCNTs  exhibited great improvement in cell performance compared to platinum on carbon black. This was primarily attributed to high porosity and high surface area developed by the CNT layer. Compared to a commercial Pt/carbon black catalyst, Pt/SWCNT films cast on a rotating disk electrode was shown to exhibit a lower onset potential and a higher electron-transfer rate constant for oxygen reduction. Improved stability of the SWCNT support was also confirmed from the minimal change in the oxygen reduction current during repeated cycling over a period of 36 h . Platinum particles deposited on MWCNT encapsulated in micellar surfactant were also explored as efficient catalysts for fuel cells [30, 31]. An in situ synthetic method was reported for preparing and decorating metal nanoparticles at sidewalls of sodium dodecyl sulfate micelle functionalized SWCNTs/MWCNTs. Accelerated durability evaluation was carried out by conducting 1500 potential cycles between 0.1 and 1.2 V at 80°C. These nanocomposites were demonstrated to yield a high fuel cell performance with enhanced durability. The membrane electrode assembly with Pt/MWCNTs showed superior performance stability with a power density degradation of only 30% compared to commercial Pt/C (70%) after potential cycles. Identically electrocatalytically active platinum nanoparticles on CNTs with enhanced nucleation and stability have been demonstrated through introduction of electron-conducting polyaniline (PANI) . A bridge between the Pt nanoparticles and MWCNTs walls was demonstrated with the presence of platinum nitride bonding and π-π bonding. The synthesized PANI was found to wrap around the CNT as a result of π-π bonding, and highly dispersed Pt nanoparticles were loaded onto the CNT with narrowly distributed particle sizes ranging from 2.0 to 4.0 nm. The Pt-PANI/CNT catalysts were electroactive and exhibited excellent electrochemical stability, therefore constitute promising potential applications in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Strong evidence thus emerges that CNTs/Pt composites are efficient as catalysts for fuel cells. Although platinum content has been dramatically decreased, industrials consider that further optimization is mandatory for a large scale fuel cell production. In addition Nafion® membrane between the cathodic and anodic compartment delays the large scale application of fuel cells, due to cost and problem of mass transfer. Breakthrough research towards these two bottlenecks could surely enforce a hydrogen economy.
5. Towards a green H2 economy: carbon nanotubes for enzyme and microbe immobilization
Replacement of chemical catalysts is thus nowadays highly needed in view of the development of a green energy economy. Microorganisms contain many biocatalysts, namely enzymes, which are highly efficient and specific towards various substrate conversions. Given they are produced in large enough quantities, these enzymes could be used as catalysts in biotechnological devices. A mandatory condition to develop heterogeneous catalysis is to succeed in the functional immobilization and in the stabilization of the enzymes on solid supports. The redox active site of enzymes is indeed buried inside the protein moiety so that the enzymatic property can be maintained under environmental stresses. Specific channels are often involved to allow the substrate to reach the active site. Complex but highly organized electron transfer chains occur for energetic metabolism. Electron transfer between two physiological partners associated with transformation of the substrate involves specific recognition site. The game for a bioelectrochemist that aims to get the highest electron transfer rate for heterogeneous catalysis is to reproduce at the electrode interface the physiological electron transfer recognition process. Given the usual size of an enzyme (5-10 nm), electron transfer cannot occur
Direct electron transfer process is preferred to mediated one, because it is not limited by the affinity between the enzyme and the redox mediator, and because it avoids the co-immobilization of enzyme and mediator. It is furthermore expected to yield the highest power density because enzymes, as biocatalysts, transform their substrate into products with very low overvoltages. However it requires the knowledge of the protein structure and the construction of a tuned electrochemical interface that fits the electron transfer site.
There are many strategies for efficient enzyme immobilization onto electrochemical interfaces, including simple physical adsorption, covalent attachment, cross-linking or entrapment in polymers. The objectives are to optimize the immobilization procedure so that the efficiency of the enzyme and its stability are preserved. Moreover, due to the size of enzymes compared to chemical catalysts, large surface area interfaces baring many anchorage sites are required to obtain high catalytic currents.
To reach these goals, 3D structures are preferred, and CNT-based electrodes are very popular, both SWCNTs and MWCNTs. CNTs can be directly grown onto electrode surface, or adsorbed on it, or imbedded in polymer coating. In most cases, higher activity was reported for enzymes physically adsorbed onto CNTs . Hydrophobic interactions between the enzyme and the CNT walls and π-π interactions between side walls of CNTs and aromatic rings of the enzyme are thought to be the driving force for direct adsorption of enzymes on CNTs . Electrostatic interaction between the defect sites of CNTs and protonated amino residues of the enzyme plays also a role in the adsorption process . CNTs are quite easily functionalized, allowing covalent, thus stable specific attachment of enzymes. The oxidation in strong acidic solutions at high temperature was demonstrated to remove the end caps and shorten the lengths of the CNTs. The length of the CNTs was shown to be a function of the oxidation duration . Acid treatment also adds oxide groups, primarily carboxylic acids, to the tube ends and defect sites . The control of reactants and/or oxidation conditions may control the locations and density of the functional groups on the CNTs, which can be used to control the location and density of the attached enzymes . Covalent immobilization is induced by carbodiimide reaction between the free amine groups on the enzyme surface and carboxylic groups generated by side wall oxidation of CNTs.
Further chemical reactions can be performed at the oxide groups generated on the oxidized CNTs to functionalize with groups such as amides, thiols, etc…From an electrochemical point of view, the side walls of CNTs were suggested to behave as basal plane of pyrolytic graphite, while their open ends resemble the edge planes [38, 39]. But recent work has demonstrated that the side wall may be responsible for electrochemical activity . It has been furthermore suggested that the uncovered surface of CNTs promotes the accessibility of the substrate to the enzyme . It is also interesting to note that the open spaces between CNTs are accessible to large species such as entire bacteria , opening the way for the development of fuel cells using whole microorganisms instead of purified enzymes. The cost and complexity of CNT manufacturing seem to be still clogging issues in that field.
Abundant literature exists on the ways CNTs are architectured for efficient enzyme immobilization, including those specific for development of enzymatic fuel cells. Enzymes and proteins as various as glucose oxidase and dehydrogenase, tyrosinase, laccase and bilirubin oxidase, peroxidase, haemoglobin and myoglobin,
Mixing CNTs with surfactant [69-71] was claimed to assist in the dispersion of CNTs while avoiding oxidative functionalization which may disrupt their π-network. Polymer modified CNTs [72, 73] and sol-gel-CNT nanocomposite films  were proved to behave as friendly platforms for enzyme encapsulation.
Many enzymes however cannot be electrically connected to the electrode interface and require redox mediator to electrochemically follow substrate conversion. In that case, electrode kinetics is mainly dependant on mediator kinetics, so that the choice of the redox mediator mainly impedes the power density. Another issue is that the mediator can be co-immobilized with the enzyme at the electrode, while still being capable of efficient interaction with the enzyme. CNTs have also been used for building networks enabling co-immobilization of enzymes and redox mediators. In that way, one of the most popular redox entities is osmium polymer which forms hydrogels with enzymes allowing both charge transfer reaction between enzyme and mediators and diffusion of substrate and product . Composite CNT/osmium films were used To immobilize bacteria , or enzymes . By optimizing the CNT and polymer amounts, enhanced current responses were obtained linked to a promotion of the electron transfer within the composite. Various phenothiazine derivatives were also used to form nanohybrids with CNTs acting as efficient redox mediator platforms [78-80]. Phenothiazine derivatives strongly adsorb onto CNTs leading to great enhancement of redox dye loading onto the electrode, but also to improved electrochemical sensing devices. Another strategy involves the use of a redox polymer as redox mediator platform. Electropolymerization of the redox conducting polymer onto CNTs enhances the amount of redox units and the electrical conductivity of the coating . An interesting construction has also been obtained by immobilization of physiological cofactor onto CNT layers
6. Carbon nanotubes for biological production of dihydrogen
Apart from replacement of noble metal catalysts in fuel cells, a new green technology for production of dihydrogen is required. It currently relies on steam reforming of hydrocarbons under high temperature and pressure conditions, which starts from fossil fuels, thus producing greenhouse gases. Dihydrogen production
In order to use these biocatalysts for green dihydrogen production, two main research domains are currently concerned: the understanding of the catalytic mechanisms of H2 production, and the optimization of enzyme immobilization. Adsorption onto graphite electrodes [85, 86] was largely used to study the mechanisms by which hydrogenases produce H2. Grafting of hydrogenase onto gold electrode modified by thiolated Self-Assembled-Monolayer  allowed efficient proton reduction into dihydrogen in aqueous buffer solutions. Hydrogenase is also considered as a promising biocatalyst for photobiological production of dihydrogen when coupled to a photocatalyst . Hybrid complexes of hydrogenases with TiO2 nanoparticles [89, 90] were studied for H2 production. The optimized system was shown to produce H2 at a turnover frequency of approximately 50 (mol H2) s−1 (mol total hydrogenase)−1 at pH 7 and 25 °C, even under the typical solar irradiation of a northern European sky. Cd-based nanorods [91, 92] were recently studied. The CdS nanorod/hydrogenase complexes photocatalyzed reduction of protons to H2 at a hydrogenase turnover frequency of 380-900 s-1 and photon conversion efficiencies of up to 20% under illumination at 405 nm. Cd-based complexes allowed photoproduction of dihydrogen for a couple of hours, but still suffer from quick inhibition of hydrogenase.
Although a very attractive way, little work has been done towards enhancement of green hydrogen production using CNTs. Three studies from the same group reported however catalytically active hydrogenase-SWCNT biohybrids [93, 94]. Surfactant-suspended SWCNTs were shown to spontaneously self-assemble with hydrogenase. Photoluminescence excitation and Raman spectroscopy showed that SWCNTs act as molecular wires to make electrical contact with at least one of the FeS electron relay. Hydrogenase was demonstrated to be strongly attached to the SWCNTs and to mediate electron injection into nanotubes. The displacement of the surfactant by hydrogenase to gain access to the SWCNTs was strongly suggested by photoluminescence studies. Furthermore, Raman studies of charge transfer complexes between hydrogenase and either metallic (m) or semiconducting (s) SWCNTs revealed a difference in oxygen deactivation of hydrogenase according to the SWCNT species. m-SWCNTs most probably interact with hydrogenase to produce a more oxygen-tolerant species. The study further suggested that purified m-SWCNTs or s-SWCNTs, rather than mixed preparation, would be more suitable for hydrogenase-SWCNTs biohybrids. The formation of these catalytically active biohybrids in addition with the intrinsic properties developed by CNT networks on electrodes certainly accounts for the improved dihydrogen production observed in the following studies. Kihara
One alternative for green hydrogen production is to synthesize metal complexes that mimic the active site of enzymes. Huge work has been done in that field in order to obtain bioinspired models that could produce H2 as efficiently as hydrogenase, while being much more stable . The most performing complex involves mononuclear nickel diphosphine complex. This complex is inspired from the active sites of both [NiFe] and [FeFe] hydrogenases and displays remarkable catalytic proton reduction in organic solvent . Le Goff
7. Carbon nanotubes for biofuel cells: an attractive green alternative
Beside researches towards decrease in chemical catalyst amount and discovery of less expensive catalysts (as alloys for example), a new concept emerged early in 1964 by Yahiro
The advantages of enzymatic biofuel cells over fuel cells are multiple. Biocatalysts are widespread, then
The most common redox couple that has been used in biofuel cells is sugar/O2, essentially because of sugar and O2 abundance in nature and their essential role in living metabolism. In particular, glucose is an important metabolite and a source of energy for many living organisms. In that field, CNTs have been widely used, both at the anode and cathode. Glucose/O2 biofuel cell is thus a very pertinent investigation field to investigate the role of CNTs. A view of some typical results is presented in Table 2.
|Gox / Laccase||Ferrocene / -||15|||
|GDH / BOD||PQQ / -||23|||
|Gox / Pt||Ferrocenecarboxaldehyde / -||51|||
|GDH/ BOD||Poly(brilliant cresyl blue) / -||54|||
|GDH / laccase||Azine dies / -||58|||
|Gox / Pt||Benzoquinone / -||77|||
|Gox / Laccase||Ferrocene / ABTS||100|||
|Gox / BOD||Ferrocene methanol / ABTS||120|||
|GDH / Laccase||- / -||131|||
|CDH / Pt||Os complex / -||157|||
|Gox / Laccase||- / -||1300|||
Data highlight that kinetics of bioelectrochemical reactions, thus power density, largely depends on the experimental conditions,
8. Carbon nanotubes for bioelectrooxidation of H2: towards H2/O2 biofuel cells
We already described above hydrogenases, the enzymes that convert with high specificity and efficiency protons into dihydrogen. Most of these biocatalysts are also efficient in the oxidation of dihydrogen into protons. Consequently this allows to imagine biofuel cells in which the fuel would be dihydrogen, exactly as in PEM fuel cells. As hydrogenases are able to oxidize dihydrogen with very low overvoltage, the open circuit voltage for the biofuel cell using oxygen at the cathode, is expected to be not far from the thermodynamic one,
Carbon nanotube networks constituted technological breakthroughs in that way. All the recent developments using immobilization of hydrogenases onto carbon nanotubes point out improved catalytic currents essentially related to an increase in the active area of the electrode. The respective role of metallic-SWCNTs against semiconducting one was explored for dihydrogen oxidation by immobilized hydrogenase . A higher oxidation process was revealed when the nanotube mixture was enriched in metallic SWCNT. The study furthermore suggested no need of oxygenated SWCNTs for efficient anchoring of hydrogenases. The catalytic current enhancement was claimed to be due to an increase in active electrode surface area and an improved electronic coupling between hydrogenase redox active sites and the electrode surface. In most cases, however, CNTs are used as a mixture of metallic and semi-conducting tubes. Oxidation of the mixture yields the defects and functionalities described above in this review. Advantage is gained due to these chemical functions quite easily generated on the surface of the carbon nanotubes. Electrodes modified by carbon nanotubes are thus expected to offer numerous anchoring sites for stable hydrogenase immobilization. The literature provides a few examples of efficient immobilization of hydrogenase on carbon nanotubes coatings bearing various functionalities. Both SWCNTs and MWCNTs are used. Notably, more and more articles are devoted nowadays to this domain in hydrogenase research. A bionanocomposite made of the hydrogenase, MWCNTs and a thiopyridine derivative was proved to form stable monolayers when transferred by Langmuir-Blodgett method on indium tin oxide electrode surfaces . A greater amount of electroactive hydrogenase towards dihydrogen oxidation was demonstrated to be adsorbed on the Langmuir-Blodgett films. De Lacey and co-workers grew MWCNTs on electrode by chemical vapor deposition of acetylene . A high density of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes was obtained, which were functionalized by electroreduction of a diazonium salt for covalent binding of hydrogenase. High coverage of electroactive enzyme was measured, suggesting that almost all the functionalized CNT surface was accessible to hydrogenase. Great stabilization of the catalytic current for H2 oxidation was obtained, with no decrease in current density after one month. Another work by Heering and co-workers studied a gold electrode pre-treated by polymyxin then a multilayer of carbon nanotubes . Polymyxin was shown to help in the stable attachment of hydrogenase on the gold electrode. Using adsorption of hydrogenase on a nanotube layer pretreated with polymyxin the current density for H2 oxidation was an order of magnitude higher than at the gold electrode only modified by polymixin. This result was supposed to origin from greater surface area even though only the top of the nanotube layer was supposed to be accessible to the enzyme. The catalytic current was stable with time, at least for two hours under continuous cycling, and several days upon storage under ambient conditions. AFM visualization of hydrogenase immobilized onto polymyxin-treated SWCNT layer on SiO2 revealed that hydrogenase was structurally intact and preferentially adsorbed on the sidewalls of the CNTs rather than on SiO2 .
In our laboratory, we immobilized the [NiFe] hydrogenase from a mesophilic anaerobic bacterium (the sulfate reducing bacterium
Because non-turnover signals were not detected for hydrogenase in these conditions, the increase in surface area was evaluated using a redox protein as a probe. It was shown that SWCNTs induced one order larger surface area. The same hydrogenase was entrapped in methylviologen functionalized polypyrrole films coated onto SWCNTs and MWCNTs . Although no direct electrical hydrogenase connection was observed, an efficient dihydrogen oxidation through a mediated process occurred. It was concluded that the entrapment of hydrogenase into the redox polymer coated onto CNTs combined the electron carrier properties of redox probes, the flexibility of polypyrroles, and the high electroactive area developed by CNTs. The reason why no direct connection could be observed is however not clearly understood yet. In our group we handled immobilization of hydrogenase on a film obtained by electropolymerization of a phenothiazine dye on a SWCNT coating . The phenothiazine dye was shown to be able to mediate dihydrogen oxidation but also to serve as an anchor for the enzyme when adsorbed or when electropolymerized. Higher current density than in the absence of SWCNT was observed. In addition, a wider potential window for dihydrogen oxidation was reached as well as very stable electrochemical signals with time. We postulated that the conductive polymer which was electropolymerized onto CNTs could play a multiple role: enhancement of the electroactive surface area, enhancement of redox mediator units due to phenothiazine monomers entrapped in the polymer matrix, enhancement of hydrogenase anchorage sites. We have already mentioned in this review the advantages of a direct electron transfer over a mediated one for H2 oxidation, including gain in over-potential values, less interferences due to enzyme specificity, absence of redox mediators that could be difficult to co-immobilize with the enzyme… Functionalized carbon nanotube films were evaluated in our group as platforms for various hydrogenases, that present a very different environment of FeS cluster electron relay. Dihydrogen oxidation was studied at gold electrodes modified with functionalized self-assembled-monolayers . As expected, dihydrogen oxidation process was demonstrated to be driven by electrostatic or hydrophobic interactions according to the specific environment of the surface electron relay. Interestingly, at CNT coatings, although CNTs were negatively charged, direct electrical connection of hydrogenases that present a negatively charged patch around the FeS surface electron relay was observed [44, 123]. In other words, despite unfavourable electrostatic interactions, direct electron transfer process for dihydrogen oxidation was achieved. One important conclusion was that on such CNT films, the nanometric size of the CNTs allows a population of hydrogenases to be directly connected to a neighbouring nanotube, hence allowing direct electron transfer for H2 oxidation, whatever the orientation of the enzyme.
However, the extreme oxygen sensitivity of hydrogenases used in the former studies yielded an intensive research towards more resistant enzymes. During the last years, four [NiFe] membrane-bound hydrogenases have been discovered from aerobic or extremophilic organisms [128, 129-132]. They have been demonstrated to oxidize H2 in the presence of oxygen and CO. The crystallographic structure of three of them has been resolved, showing that an uncommon [4Fe-3S] cluster proximal to the active site prevents deleterious oxygen attack. Of course, the sensitivity to oxygen, and also to CO, of most hydrogenases known before was a strong limitation for their potential use in biotechnological devices. Therefore these resistant biocatalysts open new avenues towards a biohydrogen economy. No doubt that these researches will increase in the next future. To date, two main studies report the immobilization of resistant hydrogenase on CNT-modified electrodes. Krishnan
9. Design of a H2/O2 biofuel cell based on carbon nanotubes-modified electrodes
H2/O2 biofuel cells did not get much attention before O2 and CO resistant hydrogenases were proved to be efficient for H2 oxidation when immobilized onto electrode surfaces. Even though more and more efficient hydrogenase immobilization procedures are nowadays reported, few H2/O2 biofuel cells are described. An early study by Armstrong’s group in 2006  demonstrated that simple adsorption on graphite electrode of hydrogenase at the anode and laccase (a copper protein for O2 reduction) at the cathode, allowed a wristwatch to run for 24h. Power density of around 5 µW cm-2 at 500 mV was delivered with no membrane between the two compartments providing hydrogenase was extracted from
Due to the understanding of how hydrogenases could be efficiently connected at CNT-coated electrodes, a huge step jumped over very recently. First, using covalent attachment of both O2 resistant hydrogenase and BOD on pyrene derivative functionalized MWCNTs, a membrane-less biofuel cell was designed fed with a non-explosive 80/20 dihydrogen/air mixture . This biofuel cell displayed quite a good stability with time and a much higher power density than reported before. Indeed, an average power density of 119 µW cm-2 was measured. Low solubility of oxygen and weak affinity of BOD for oxygen was shown to limit the cathodic current. Secondly in our group, a more performant H2/O2 mediatorless biofuel cell was constructed based on one step covalent attachment directly on SWCNTs of an hyperthermophilic O2 resistant hydrogenase at the anode and BOD at the cathode  (Figure 7).
Taking advantage of temperature, the biofuel cell delivered power densities up to 300 µW cm-2 at 0.6V with an OCV of 1.1V, which is the highest performance ever reported. Furthermore, promising stability of the biofuel cell during 24h of continuous use lets us consider this device as an alternative power supply for small portable applications. The analysis of the fuel cell parameters during polarization, allows us to define the potential window in which the fuel cell fully operates. Interestingly, in Armstrong’s group  and in our group, different approaches on the settings of biofuel cell working conditions, led to similar observations of an unexpected increasing anodic potential. This high oxidizing potential generates an inactive state of hydrogenase active site. It is worth noticing that this hydrogenase inactivation occurred under anaerobic conditions in our group while it was under aerobic conditions in Armstrong’s group. Consequently, dramatic loss in power densities was observed. By applying negative potential to the anode, and thus providing electrons to the active site, we were unable to reactivate hydrogenase. Another protocol used by Armstrong, consisted to add a second hydrogenase coated anode, unconnected to the system but present in the anodic half-cell which was consequently unaffected by the oxidizing potential but still in presence of O2. This second anode, under H2 oxidation was used as an electron supplier and connected to the first electrode. This procedure reactivated hydrogenase and allowed full recovery of OCV. It is of relevant interest to overcome hydrogenase inactivation in H2/O2 biofuel cell.
10. Future directions
As reviewed in this chapter, many of the CNTs based technologies are promising for the development of a green hydrogen economy. Not only abiotic dihydrogen storage, but also microbial dihydrogen production and use of this green dihydrogen in biofuel cells can take advantages of the outstanding properties of CNTs. In all these applications, CNTs appear to play multiple roles including increase in surface area, increase in electron transfer rate, increase in directly connected enzymes. Possible protection against oxygen damage of enzymes has even been strongly suggested. Use of CNTs thus allows to architecture three-dimensional nanostructured interfaces which can be an alternative to strictly orientated proteins or enzymes for high direct electron transfer interfacial processes. The ease in obtaining tuned surface functionalizations is one of the very attracting points in view of the development of efficient bioelectrodes.
This is in particular the case for biofuel cells using dihydrogen as a fuel. During the last years, tremendous research on hydrogenase, the key enzyme for dihydrogen conversion, has led to the discovery, then control of some hydrogenases presenting properties that allow their use in biotechnological devices. During this year, based on these new resistant enzymes and on improved knowledge of how CNTs can enhance direct current densities, two H2/O2 biofuel cells have been reported. Although these biofuel cells constitute the first device using hydrogenases, they already deliver sufficient power density for small portable applications. No doubt that this research field will gain more and more interest in a next future.
However, various directions might be followed to further improve the biological system in such a way it could be commercially available. One is the enhancement of long-term stability of the device, which is obviously the critical point shared by (bio)fuel cells, yet. Search for more stable enzymes in the biodiversity or enzyme engineering has to be explored. Protection of enzymes by various encapsulation procedures could be another solution given efficient interfacial electron transfer can be reached. The use of whole microorganisms with controlled and driven metabolism, or at least immobilization of naturally encapsulated enzymes will be a next step. As an example, reconstitution of proteoliposomes with a membrane-bound hydrogenase was proved to enhance the stability of the enzyme . This could be a novel route for preserving enzymes in their physiological environment, hence enhancing their stability. New enzymes, with outstanding properties (T°, pH, inhibitors, substrate affinity…) have to be discovered and studied. Notably, two very recent publications report on a new thermostable bilirubin oxidase and a tyrosinase which present outstanding resistances to serum constituents [138, 139]. These two new enzymes appear to be able to efficiently replace the currently used BOD for implantable applications of biofuel cells.
More sophisticated materials interfaces, constituted of mixtures of CNTs with other conducting materials could bring a hierarchical porosity necessary for both enzyme immobilization and substrate diffusion. Carbon fibers, mesoporous carbon templates could be used to build very interesting new electrochemical interfaces. This diversity in potential carbon materials for efficient enzyme immobilization would be a key step to go through the difficulties linked to CNTs,
We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Marielle Bauzan (Fermentation Plant Unit, IMM, CNRS, Marseille, France) for growing the bacteria, Dr Marianne Guiral, Dr Marianne Ilbert and Pascale Infossi for fruitful discussions. This work was supported by research grants from CNRS, Région PACA and ANR.
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