Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > 'Tall order' sunlight-to-hydrogen system works, neutron analysis confirms

Neutron scattering analysis performed at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory reveals the lamellar structure of a hydrogen-producing, biohybrid composite material formed by the self-assembly of naturally occurring, light harvesting proteins with polymers.
Neutron scattering analysis performed at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory reveals the lamellar structure of a hydrogen-producing, biohybrid composite material formed by the self-assembly of naturally occurring, light harvesting proteins with polymers.

Abstract:
Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a biohybrid photoconversion system -- based on the interaction of photosynthetic plant proteins with synthetic polymers -- that can convert visible light into hydrogen fuel.

'Tall order' sunlight-to-hydrogen system works, neutron analysis confirms

Oak Ridge, TN | Posted on February 7th, 2011

Photosynthesis, the natural process carried out by plants, algae and some bacterial species, converts sunlight energy into chemical energy and sustains much of the life on earth. Researchers have long sought inspiration from photosynthesis to develop new materials to harness the sun's energy for electricity and fuel production.

In a step toward synthetic solar conversion systems, the ORNL researchers have demonstrated and confirmed with small-angle neutron scattering analysis that light harvesting complex II (LHC-II) proteins can self-assemble with polymers into a synthetic membrane structure and produce hydrogen.

The researchers envision energy-producing photoconversion systems similar to photovoltaic cells that generate hydrogen fuel, comparable to the way plants and other photosynthetic organisms convert light to energy.

"Making a, self-repairing synthetic photoconversion system is a pretty tall order. The ability to control structure and order in these materials for self-repair is of interest because, as the system degrades, it loses its effectiveness," ORNL researcher Hugh O'Neill, of the lab's Center for Structural Molecular Biology, said.

"This is the first example of a protein altering the phase behavior of a synthetic polymer that we have found in the literature. This finding could be exploited for the introduction of self-repair mechanisms in future solar conversion systems," he said.

Small angle neutron scattering analysis performed at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) showed that the LHC-II, when introduced into a liquid environment that contained polymers, interacted with polymers to form lamellar sheets similar to those found in natural photosynthetic membranes.

The ability of LHC-II to force the assembly of structural polymers into an ordered, layered state -- instead of languishing in an ineffectual mush -- could make possible the development of biohybrid photoconversion systems. These systems would consist of high surface area, light-collecting panes that use the proteins combined with a catalyst such as platinum to convert the sunlight into hydrogen, which could be used for fuel.

The research builds on previous ORNL investigations into the energy-conversion capabilities of platinized photosystem I complexes -- and how synthetic systems based on plant biochemistry can become part of the solution to the global energy challenge.

"We're building on the photosynthesis research to explore the development of self-assembly in biohybrid systems. The neutron studies give us direct evidence that this is occurring," O'Neill said.

The researchers confirmed the proteins' structural behavior through analysis with HFIR's Bio-SANS, a small-angle neutron scattering instrument specifically designed for analysis of biomolecular materials.

"Cold source" neutrons, in which energy is removed by passing them through cryogenically chilled hydrogen, are ideal for studying the molecular structures of biological tissue and polymers.

The LHC-II protein for the experiment was derived from a simple source: spinach procured from a local produce section, then processed to separate the LHC-II proteins from other cellular components. Eventually, the protein could be synthetically produced and optimized to respond to light.

O'Neill said the primary role of the LHC-II protein is as a solar collector, absorbing sunlight and transferring it to the photosynthetic reaction centers, maximizing their output. "However, this study shows that LHC-II can also carry out electron transfer reactions, a role not known to occur in vivo," he said.

The research team, which came from various laboratory organizations including its Chemical Sciences Division, Neutron Scattering Sciences Division, the Center for Structural Molecular Biology and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, consisted of O'Neill, William T. Heller, and Kunlun Hong, all of ORNL; Dimitry Smolensky of the University of Tennessee; and Mateus Cardoso, a former postdoctoral researcher at ORNL now of the Laboratio Nacional de Luz Sincrotron in Brazil.

"That's one of the nice things about working at a national laboratory. Expertise is available from a variety of organizations," O'Neill said.

The work, published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, was supported with Laboratory-Directed Research and Development funding. HFIR is supported by the DOE Office of Science.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Media Contact:
Bill Cabage
Communications and External Relations
865.574.4399

Copyright © Oak Ridge National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Diamonds and quantum information processing on the nano scale August 31st, 2016

Device to control 'color' of electrons in graphene provides path to future electronics August 31st, 2016

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Device to control 'color' of electrons in graphene provides path to future electronics August 31st, 2016

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

New approach to determining how atoms are arranged in materials August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

Possible Futures

Device to control 'color' of electrons in graphene provides path to future electronics August 31st, 2016

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Academic/Education

AIM Photonics Announces Release of Process Design Kit (PDK) for Integrated Silicon Photonics Design August 25th, 2016

Nanotech Security Featured by Simon Fraser University: Company's Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Developed With the Help of University's 4D LABS Materials Research Institute August 21st, 2016

W.M. Keck Foundation awards Cal State LA a $375,000 research and education grant August 4th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Self Assembly

Smarter self-assembly opens new pathways for nanotechnology: Brookhaven Lab scientists discover a way to create billionth-of-a-meter structures that snap together in complex patterns with unprecedented efficiency August 9th, 2016

Magnetic atoms arranged in neat rows: FAU physicists enable one-dimensional atom chains to grow August 5th, 2016

Accurate design of large icosahedral protein nanocages pushes bioengineering boundaries: Scientists used computational methods to build ten large, two-component, co-assembling icosahedral protein complexes the size of small virus coats July 25th, 2016

WSU researchers develop shape-changing 'smart' material: Heat, light stimulate self-assembly July 4th, 2016

Announcements

Diamonds and quantum information processing on the nano scale August 31st, 2016

Device to control 'color' of electrons in graphene provides path to future electronics August 31st, 2016

Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties August 30th, 2016

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing: 'Sweet spot' for mass-producing polymer solar cells may be far larger than dictated by the conventional wisdom August 12th, 2016

NREL technique leads to improved perovskite solar cells August 11th, 2016

Making a solar energy conversion breakthrough with help from a ferroelectrics pioneer: Philadelphia-based team shows how a ferroelectric insulator can surpass shockley-queisser limit August 9th, 2016

Tiny high-performance solar cells turn power generation sideways August 5th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic