Microbial Photoelectrosynthesis for Self-Sustaining Hydrogen Generation

John Turner, Pin-Ching Maness, Lu Lu, Nicholas Williams, Jing Gu, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus Citations


Current artificial photosynthesis (APS) systems are promising for the storage of solar energy via transportable and storable fuels, but the anodic half-reaction of water oxidation is an energy intensive process which in many cases poorly couples with the cathodic half-reaction. Here we demonstrate a self-sustaining microbial photoelectrosynthesis (MPES) system that pairs microbial electrochemical oxidation with photoelectrochemical water reduction for energy efficient H2 generation. MPES reduces the overall energy requirements thereby greatly expanding the range of semiconductors that can be utilized in APS. Due to the recovery of chemical energy from waste organics by the mild microbial process and utilization of cost-effective and stable catalyst/electrode materials, our MPES system produced a stable current of 0.4 mA/cm2 for 24 h without any external bias and ∼10 mA/cm2 with a modest bias under one sun illumination. This system also showed other merits, such as creating benefits of wastewater treatment and facile preparation and scalability.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13494-13501
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 21 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-70538


  • energy storage
  • hydrogen generation
  • photosynthesis
  • solar energy
  • solar-photochemistry


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