Photosynthesis is the process by which Nature coordinates a tandem of protein complexes of impressive complexity that function to harness staggering amounts of solar energy on a global scale. Advances in biochemistry and nanotechnology have provided tools to isolate and manipulate the individual components of this process, thus opening a door to a new class of highly functional and vastly abundant biological resources. Here we show how one of these components, Photosystem I (PSI), is incorporated into an electrochemical system to yield a stand-alone biohybrid photoelectrochemical cell that converts light energy into electrical energy. The cells make use of a dense multilayer of PSI complexes assembled on the surface of the cathode to produce a photocatalytic effect that generates photocurrent densities of approximately 2 microA/cm(2) at moderate light intensities. We describe the relationship between the current and voltage production of the cells and the photoinduced interactions of PSI complexes with electrochemical mediators, and show that the performance of the present device is limited by diffusional transport of the electrochemical mediators through the electrolyte. These biohybrid devices display remarkable stability, as they remain active in ambient conditions for at least 280 days. Even at bench-scale production, the materials required to fabricate the cells described in this manuscript cost approximately 10 cents per cm(2) of active electrode area.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.