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Solar energy is virtually inexhaustible. Photovoltaic solar cells allow the energy of the sun to be converted into electricity, but a major challenge that still remains is the conversion of solar energy into fuels which can be stored and used when (and where) required.
Some hydrogenases are able to reduce protons to H2 at incredibly fast rates. Similarly, the enzyme carbon monoxide dehydrogenase is able to reduce CO2 to CO at rates considerably greater than any synthetic catalyst. We have therefore developed systems which exploit this: by attaching these enzymes to light-sensitive semiconducting nanoparticles (either wide bandgap materials which have been sensitised with organic dye molecules, or narrow bandgap materials which already absorb visible light), a solar fuel device is created. Irradiation by light of sufficient energy liberates high energy electrons, and these drive the reductive process at the enzyme (either hydrogen production, or CO2 reduction to CO).
Artistic representation of carbon monoxide dehydrogenase from Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans attached to a light-sensitive nanoparticle. The active site of the enzyme is highlighted..
- “CO2 photoreduction at enzyme-modified metal oxide nanoparticles.” T. W. Woolerton, S. Sheard, E. Pierce, S. W. Ragsdale and F. A. Armstrong. Energy Environ. Sci., 4, 2393-2399 (2011). [PDF]
- “Efficient and Clean Photoreduction of CO2 to CO by Enzyme-Modified TiO2 Nanoparticles Using Visible Light.” T. W. Woolerton, S. Sheard, E. Reisner, E. Pierce, S. W. Ragsdale and F. A. Armstrong. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 132 (7), 2132-2133 (2010). [PDF]
- “Visible Light-Driven H2 Production by Hydrogenases Attached to Dye-Sensitized TiO2 Nanoparticles.” E. Reisner, D. J. Powell, C. Cavazza, J. C. Fontecilla-Camps and F. A. Armstrong. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 131 (51) 18457-18466(2009). [PDF]
- “Catalytic Electrochemistry of a [NiFeSe]-hydrogenase on TiO2 and Demonstration of its Suitability for Visible-Light Driven H2 Production.” E. Reisner, J.C. Fontecilla-Camps and F.A. Armstrong. Chem. Commun., 5, 550-552 (2009). [PDF]