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Superhydrophobic Carbon Nanotube Electrode Produces a Near-Symmetrical Alternating Current from Photosynthetic Protein-Based Photoelectrochemical Cells

Authors

  • Swee Ching Tan,

    Corresponding author
    1. Nanoscience Centre, University of Cambridge, 11 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0FF, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
    • Nanoscience Centre, University of Cambridge, 11 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0FF, UK.

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  • Feng Yan,

    1. Engineering Department, University of Cambridge, 9 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 0FA, UK
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  • Lucy I. Crouch,

    1. School of Biochemistry, University of Bristol, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, Medical School, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK
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  • John Robertson,

    1. Engineering Department, University of Cambridge, 9 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 0FA, UK
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  • Michael R. Jones,

    1. School of Biochemistry, University of Bristol, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK
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  • Mark E. Welland

    1. Nanoscience Centre, University of Cambridge, 11 JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0FF, UK
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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.

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