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Keywords:

  • photovoltaics;
  • counter electrode;
  • superhydrophobic;
  • reaction center;
  • alternating current

Abstract

The construction of protein-based photoelectrochemical cells that produce a variety of alternating currents in response to discontinuous illumination is reported. The photovoltaic component is a protein complex from the purple photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides which catalyses photochemical charge separation with a high quantum yield. Photoelectrochemical cells formed from this protein, a mobile redox mediator and a counter electrode formed from cobalt disilicide, titanium nitride, platinum, or multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) generate a direct current during continuous illumination and an alternating current with different characteristics during discontinuous illumination. In particular, the use of superhydrophobic MWCNT as the back electrode results in a near symmetrical forward and reverse current upon light on and light off, respectively. The symmetry of the AC output of these cells is correlated with the wettability of the counter electrode. Potential applications of a hybrid biological/synthetic solar cell capable of generating an approximately symmetrical alternating current are discussed.