Towards biohybrid artificial photosynthesis

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A vast amount of energy emanates from the sun, and at the distance of Earth, approximately 172,500 TW reaches the atmosphere. Of that, 80,600 TW reaches the surface with 15,600

A vast amount of energy emanates from the sun, and at the distance of Earth, approximately 172,500 TW reaches the atmosphere. Of that, 80,600 TW reaches the surface with 15,600 TW falling on land. Photosynthesis converts 156 TW in the form of biomass, which represents all food/fuel for the biosphere with about 20 TW of the total product used by humans. Additionally, our society uses approximately 20 more TW of energy from ancient photosynthetic products i.e. fossil fuels. In order to mitigate climate problems, the carbon dioxide must be removed from the human energy usage by replacement or recycling as an energy carrier. Proposals have been made to process biomass into biofuels; this work demonstrates that current efficiencies of natural photosynthesis are inadequate for this purpose, the effects of fossil fuel replacement with biofuels is ecologically irresponsible, and new technologies are required to operate at sufficient efficiencies to utilize artificial solar-to-fuels systems. Herein a hybrid bioderived self-assembling hydrogen-evolving nanoparticle consisting of photosystem I (PSI) and platinum nanoclusters is demonstrated to operate with an overall efficiency of 6%, which exceeds that of land plants by more than an order of magnitude. The system was limited by the rate of electron donation to photooxidized PSI. Further work investigated the interactions of natural donor acceptor pairs of cytochrome c6 and PSI for the thermophilic cyanobacteria Thermosynechococcus elogantus BP1 and the red alga Galderia sulphuraria. The cyanobacterial system is typified by collisional control while the algal system demonstrates a population of prebound PSI-cytochrome c6 complexes with faster electron transfer rates. Combining the stability of cyanobacterial PSI and kinetics of the algal PSI:cytochrome would result in more efficient solar-to-fuel conversion. A second priority is the replacement of platinum with chemically abundant catalysts. In this work, protein scaffolds are employed using host-guest strategies to increase the stability of proton reduction catalysts and enhance the turnover number without the oxygen sensitivity of hydrogenases. Finally, design of unnatural electron transfer proteins are explored and may introduce a bioorthogonal method of introducing alternative electron transfer pathways in vitro or in vivo in the case of engineered photosynthetic organisms.