Coupling Biology to Synthetic Nanomaterials for Semi-Artificial Photosynthesis

Katherine Brown, Paul King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus Citations


Biohybrid artificial photosynthesis aims to combine the advantages of biological specificity with a range of synthetic nanomaterials to create innovative semi-synthetic systems for solar-to-chemical conversion. Biological systems utilize highly efficient molecular catalysts for reduction–oxidation reactions. They can operate with minimal overpotentials while selectively channeling reductant energy into specific transformation chemistries and product forming pathways. Nanomaterials can be synthesized to have efficient light-absorption capacity and tuneability of charge separation by manipulation of surface chemistries and bulk compositions. These complementary aspects have been combined in a variety of ways, for example, where biological light-harvesting complexes function as antenna for nanoparticle catalysts or where nanoparticles function as light capture, charge separation components for coupling to chemical conversion by redox enzymes and whole cells. The synthetic diversity that is possible with biohybrids is still being explored. The progress arising from creative approaches is generating new model systems to inspire scale-up technologies and generate understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that control energy conversion at the molecular scale. These efforts are leading to discoveries of essential design principles that can enable the development of scalable artificial photosynthesis systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
JournalPhotosynthesis Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, US Government.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-74561


  • Artificial photosynthesis
  • Biohybrid
  • Solar fuels


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