Two membrane-bound protein complexes that work along with an artificial catalyst to supply hydrogen from water. Credit score: Olivia Johnson and Lisa Utschig

A chemical response pathway central to plant biology have been tailored to type the spine of a brand new course of that converts water into hydrogen gasoline utilizing vitality from the solar.

In a current examine from the U.S. Division of Vitality’s (DOE) Argonne Nationwide Laboratory, scientists have mixed two membrane-bound protein complexes to carry out an entire conversion of water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

The work builds on an earlier examine that examined certainly one of these protein complexes, known as Photosystem I, a membrane protein that may use vitality from gentle to feed electrons to an inorganic catalyst that makes hydrogen. This a part of the response, nevertheless, represents solely half of the general course of wanted for hydrogen technology.

Through the use of a second protein advanced that makes use of vitality from gentle to separate water and take electrons from it, known as Photosystem II, Argonne chemist Lisa Utschig and her colleagues have been capable of take electrons from water and feed them to Photosystem I.

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“The great thing about this design is in its simplicity—you possibly can self-assemble the catalyst with the pure membrane to do the chemistry you need”—Lisa Utschig, Argonne chemist

In an earlier experiment, the researchers offered Photosystem I with electrons from a sacrificial electron donor. “The trick was methods to get two electrons to the catalyst in quick succession,” Utschig stated.

The 2 protein complexes are embedded in thylakoid membranes, like these discovered contained in the oxygen-creating chloroplasts in larger vegetation. “The membrane, which we now have taken straight from nature, is crucial for pairing the 2 photosystems,” Utschig stated. “It structurally helps each of them concurrently and offers a direct pathway for inter-protein electron switch, however does not impede catalyst binding to Photosystem I.”

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In accordance with Utschig, the Z-scheme—which is the technical identify for the light-triggered electron transport chain of pure photosynthesis that happens within the thylakoid membrane—and the artificial catalyst come collectively fairly elegantly. “The great thing about this design is in its simplicity—you possibly can self-assemble the catalyst with the pure membrane to do the chemistry you need,” she stated.

One further enchancment concerned the substitution of cobalt or nickel-containing catalysts for the costly platinum catalyst that had been used within the earlier examine. The brand new cobalt or nickel catalysts might dramatically scale back potential prices.

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The subsequent step for the analysis, in keeping with Utschig, entails incorporating the membrane-bound Z-scheme right into a residing system. “As soon as we now have an in vivo system—one during which the method is occurring in a residing organism—we are going to actually have the ability to see the rubber hitting the street by way of hydrogen manufacturing,” she stated.


Discover additional:
New analysis sheds gentle on photosynthesis and creation of photo voltaic gasoline

Extra info:
Lisa M. Utschig et al, Z-scheme photo voltaic water splitting through self-assembly of photosystem I-catalyst hybrids in thylakoid membranes, Chemical Science (2018). DOI: 10.1039/c8sc02841a

Journal reference:
Chemical Science

Supplied by:
Argonne Nationwide Laboratory

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