Research & Teaching Faculty

Hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion

TitleHybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsNichols, EM, Gallagher, JJ, Liu, C, Su, Y, Resasco, J, Yu, Y, Sun, Y, Yang, P, Chang, MCY, Chang, CJ
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Natural photosynthesis, a process of solar-to-chemical conversion, uses light, water, and carbon dioxide to generate the chemical products needed to sustain life. Here we report a strategy inspired by photosynthesis in which compatible inorganic and biological components are used to transform light, water, and carbon dioxide to the value-added product methane. Specifically, this solar-to-chemical conversion platform interfaces photoactive inorganic materials that produce hydrogen from water and sunlight with microorganisms that consume this sustainably derived hydrogen to drive the transformation of carbon dioxide to methane with high efficiency. This system establishes a starting point for a broader materials biology approach to the synthesis of more complex chemical products from carbon dioxide and water.Natural photosynthesis harnesses solar energy to convert CO2 and water to value-added chemical products for sustaining life. We present a hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion in which sustainable electrical and/or solar input drives production of hydrogen from water splitting using biocompatible inorganic catalysts. The hydrogen is then used by living cells as a source of reducing equivalents for conversion of CO2 to the value-added chemical product methane. Using platinum or an earth-abundant substitute, α-NiS, as biocompatible hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) electrocatalysts and Methanosarcina barkeri as a biocatalyst for CO2 fixation, we demonstrate robust and efficient electrochemical CO2 to CH4 conversion at up to 86% overall Faradaic efficiency for >=7 d. Introduction of indium phosphide photocathodes and titanium dioxide photoanodes affords a fully solar-driven system for methane generation from water and CO2, establishing that compatible inorganic and biological components can synergistically couple light-harvesting and catalytic functions for solar-to-chemical conversion.