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Photosynthesis on an electrode

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Sharon Connor.

The harnessing of solar energy to perform complex chemistries sustainably and on a global scale has been mastered by nature over 3 billion years ago with the emergence of photosynthesis. The ability to wire photosynthetic machineries to electrodes for photo-electrochemistry is a relatively new approach for studying photosynthesis. Additionally, this new ability allows us to re-wire photosynthesis and create novel pathways for performing solar-energy conversion.(1, 2) In a recent example, our collaborators wired photosynthetic bacteria to electrodes power a micro-processor for over a year.(3)

In the spirit of fostering new ideas and intra-departmental conversations, my talk will be divided into three parts. First, I will give an overview of efforts in my lab to steal energy and electrons from photosynthesis.(4-6) Second, I will briefly discuss how the platforms being developed in my lab, which aims to modify the bioenergetics of cells, can be applied to research questions beyond renewable energy generation. Lastly, I will highlight some unfilled gaps within my field of research that could benefit from collaborations within the department and other disciplines.


1. J. Z. Zhang, E. Reisner, Advancing photosystem II photoelectrochemistry for semi-artificial photosynthesis. Nature Rev. Chem. 4, 6-21 (2020).

2. N. Kornienko, J. Z. Zhang, K. K. Sakimoto, P. Yang, E. Reisner, Interfacing nature’s catalytic machinery with synthetic materials for semi-artificial photosynthesis. Nat. Nanotechnol. 13, 890-899 (2018).

3. P. Bombelli et al., Powering a microprocessor by photosynthesis. Energy & Environmental Science 15, 2529-2536 (2022).

4. T. Baikie et al., Photosynthesis re-wired on the pico-second timescale. Nature, in press (2023)

5. X. Chen et al., 3D-printed hierarchical pillar array electrodes for high-performance semi-artificial photosynthesis. Nat. Mater. 21, 811-818 (2022).

6. E. R. Clifford et al., Phenazines as model low-midpoint potential electron shuttles for photosynthetic bioelectrochemical systems. Chem. Sci., 3328 – 3338 (2021).

This talk is part of the Materials Chemistry Research Interest Group series.

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