Using Photosynthesis for direct clean energy production

A Bio-photelectrochemical cell built to utilize plant membranes to produce hydrogen with any outside energy source other than sunlight (Pinhassi et al. Nat. Comm. 2016.

Photosynthesis is the process by which bacteria, algae and plants convert absorbed light into chemical energy. Mankind has been using the product of photosynthesis as a source pf energy for thousands of years – burning wood, coal, gas and oil – all the products of life, supported by photosynthesis. The ever-growing world population is searching for cleaner types of fuels, to avoid further impact on our environment. In our lab, in collaboration with Prof. Gadi Schuster of the Faculty of Biology of the Technion and others, we are trying to directly harness the power of photosynthesis to make the cleanest electricity and fuels possible – absorbing greenhouse gases without releasing pollution to the atmosphere. We have shown that we can get significant electrical currents from plant membranes or live cyanobacterial cells. The processes we have developed, called bio-photoelectrochemical cells (BPECs) do not require expensive or polluting isolation or coupling procedures. We are now researching new generations of BPECs that will utilize organisms that are evolutionarily adapted to difficult environments, such as the desert or the oceans. We are also working in collaborations on other types of energy conversion methods, using isolated systems (antenna’s such as the Phycobilisome or reaction centers such as Photosystem II) that can be coupled to hybrid devices.

Isolated Photosystem II attached to gold nanoparticles decorated with ligands and electron acceptors transfers electrons to produce hydrogen