Designing Interfaces of Hydrogenase-Nanomaterial Hybrids for Efficient Solar Conversion

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57 Scopus Citations


The direct conversion of sunlight into biofuels is an intriguing alternative to a continued reliance on fossil fuels. Natural photosynthesis has long been investigated both as a potential solution, and as a model for utilizing solar energy to drive a water-to-fuel cycle. The molecules and organizational structure provide a template to inspire the design of efficient molecular systems for photocatalysis. A clear design strategy is the coordination of molecular interactions that match kinetic rates and energetic levels to control the direction and flow of energy from light harvesting to catalysis. Energy transduction and electron-transfer reactions occur through interfaces formed between complexes of donor-acceptor molecules. Although the structures of several of the key biological complexes have been solved, detailed descriptions of many electron-transfer complexes are lacking, which presents a challenge to designing and engineering biomolecular systems for solar conversion. Alternatively, it is possible to couple the catalytic power of biological enzymes to light harvesting by semiconductor nanomaterials. In these molecules, surface chemistry and structure can be designed using ligands. The passivation effect of the ligand can also dramatically affect the photophysical properties of the semiconductor, and energetics of external charge-transfer. The length, degree of bond saturation (aromaticity), and solvent exposed functional groups of ligands can be manipulated to further tune the interface to control molecular assembly, and complex stability in photocatalytic hybrids. The results of this research show how ligand selection is critical to designing molecular interfaces that promote efficient self-assembly, charge-transfer and photocatalysis. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Metals in Bioenergetics and Biomimetics Systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)949-957
Number of pages9
JournalBBA - Bioenergetics
Issue number8-9
StatePublished - 2013

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-58365


  • Electron-transfer
  • Enzyme biohybrid
  • Interface
  • Nanoparticle
  • Photocatalysis
  • Solar conversion


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