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Bio-based solar cell
Date:11/21/2013

Researchers at the Ruhr-Universitt Bochum (RUB) have developed a bio-based solar cell. They embedded the two proteins photosystem 1 and 2, which in plants are responsible of photosynthesis, into complex molecules developed in-house, thus creating an efficient electron current. Headed by Prof Dr Wolfgang Schuhmann from the Department of Analytical Chemistry and Center for Electrochemical Sciences (CES) and Prof Dr Matthias Rgner from the Department of Plant Biochemistry, the team has published a report in the journal "Angewandte Chemie".

Isolating and embedding photosystems

In leaves, the photosystems 1 and 2 utilise light energy very efficiently; this is required for converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and biomass. The Bochum researchers' bio-based solar cell, on the other hand, generates electricity rather than biomass. Prof Rgner's team isolated the two photosystems from thermophilic cyanobacteria that live in a hot spring in Japan. Because of their habitat and behaviour, their photosystems are much more stable than comparable proteins of species that do not occur under extreme environmental conditions. Prof Schuhmann's team developed complex electron-conducting materials, so-called redox hydrogels. The researchers embedded the photosystems into these hydrogels in order to connect them to the electrodes of the photovoltaic cells.

Structure of the bio-based solar cell

The cell is made up of two chambers. In the first chamber, the protein photosystem 2 extracts electrons from water molecules, thus generating oxygen. The electrons migrate through the redox hydrogel to the electrode in the first chamber which is connected to the electrode in the second chamber. The electrode in the second chamber conducts the electrons via a different redox hydrogel onto photosystem 1. There, electrons are passed to oxygen; water is generated. However, the photosystems carry out these processes only if they are powered by
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Contact: Matthias Rögner
Matthias.Roegner@rub.de
49-234-322-3634
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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