Humanity’s demand for energy is increasing exponentially and the dependence on fossil fuels is both unsustainable and detrimental to the environment. To provide a solution to the impending energy crisis, it is reasonable to look toward utilizing solar energy, which is abundant and renewable. One approach to harvesting solar irradiation for fuel purposes is through mimicking the processes of natural photosynthesis in an artificial design to use sunlight and water to store energy in chemical bonds for later use. Thus, in order to design an efficient energy conversion device, the underlying processes of the natural system must be understood. An artificial photosynthetic device has many components and each can be optimized separately. This work deals with the design, construction and study of some of those components. The first chapter provides an introduction to this work. The second chapter shows a proof of concept for a water splitting dye sensitized photoelectrochemical cell followed by the presentation of a new p-type semiconductor, the design of a modular cluster binding protein that can be used for incorporating catalysts, and a new anchoring group for semiconducting oxides with high electron injection efficiency. The third chapter investigates the role of electronic coupling and thermodynamics for photoprotection in artificial systems by triplet-triplet energy transfer from tetrapyrroles to carotenoids. The fourth chapter describes a mimic of the proton-coupled electron transfer in photosystem II and confirms that in the artificial system a concerted mechanism operates. In the fifth chapter, a microbial system is designed to work in tandem with a photovoltaic device to produce high energy fuels. A variety of quinone redox mediators have been synthesized to shuttle electrons from an electron donor to the microbial system. Lastly, the synthesis of a variety of photosensitizers is detailed for possible future use in artificial systems. The results of this work helps with the understanding of the processes of natural photosynthesis and suggests ways to design artificial photosynthetic devices that can contribute to solving the renewable energy challenge.
- Compounds for investigating photosynthetic pathways and solar energy conversion