Photosynthetic Biohybrids

Natural photosynthesis relies upon a series of light harvesting proteins that possess a series of limitations. They are optically limited to an absorption peak, capable of utilizing only a relatively narrow region of the solar spectrum, and susceptible to damage by higher energy photons. The properties of inorganic, solid-state semiconductors, which form the basis of high efficiency commercial photovoltaic cells, surpass those of their biological analogues. The inorganic materials possess an absorption band, above which all higher energy photons can be collected for chemical work. However, many of the highest performing materials are susceptible to a variety of damage and degradation pathways without the mechanisms for self-repair of their biological counterparts. One might envision a hybrid system, in which the best of both worlds are combined for the purpose of photochemical biosynthesis: the optoelectronic properties of inorganic chemical systems, with the synthetic, self-regenerative properties of biological systems. Through this symbiotic relationship, in which each half augments the capabilities of the other, it is possible to design a new type of biotic-abiotic interface that surpasses the capabilities of their individual components.

Our group has initiated a program to design and explore the fundamental biotic-abiotic interfaces of a model system, an artificial cell, for inorganic-biological artificial photosynthesis of a diversity of chemical products utilizing CO2 as the sole carbon source. This model system has launched activities along several avenues: (1) selection of a biological component for chemical synthesis, (2) selection of an inorganic light harvester, (3) exploration of the synergistic effects of the inorganic-biological hybrid system, and (4) detailed study of the fundamental mechanisms at the newly formed biotic-abiotic interfaces. A battery of characterization techniques (including spectroscopy, microscopy, and analytical chemistry) have been applied to analyze the interface formed between microbes and materials as well as charge transfer and product formation. The data establish a general approach for making bacteria photosynthetic through inorganic light harvesters, and couples the biosynthesis and stabilization of inorganic semiconductor light harvesters by microbial self-repairing and self-regenerating pathways. Through this work, we will be able to demonstrate a versatile new hybrid system for the renewable production of a diversity of chemicals and shed light on the nature and underlying mechanisms of their symbiotic interactions. These studies will pave the way to next-generation inorganic-biological materials.

Research Milestones

  • “Bacterial Recognition of Silicon Nanowire Arrays”, H. Jeong, I. Kim, P. Karam, H. Choi, P. Yang, Nano Lett., 13, 2864, 2013.
  • “Salt-Induced Self-Assembly of Bacteria on Nanowire Arrays”, K. K. Sakimoto, C.  Liu, J. Lim, P. Yang, Nano Lett., 14(9), 5471, 2014.
  • “Nanowire-Bacteria Hybrids for Unassisted Solar Carbon Dioxide Fixation to Value-Added Chemicals”, C. Liu, J. J. Gallagher, K. K. Sakimoto, E. M. Nichols, C. J. Chang, M. C. Y. Chang, P. Yang, Nano Lett., 15(5), 3634-3639, 2015.
  • “Self-photosensitization of Nonphotosynthetic Bacteria for Solar-to-chemical Production”, K. K. Sakimoto, A. B. Wong, P. Yang, Science, 351(6268), 74, 2016.
  • “Spectroscopic elucidation of energy transfer in hybrid inorganic-biological organisms for solar-to-chemical production”, Nikolay Kornienko, Kelsey K. Sakimoto, David M Herlihy, Son C Nguyen, A. Paul Alivisatos, Charles B. Harris, Adam Schwartzberg, and Peidong Yang. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 113, 11750–11755 (2016)
  • “Cyborgian Material Design for Solar Fuel Production: The Emerging Photosynthetic Biohybrid Systems”, Kelsey K Sakimoto, Nikolay Kornienko, and Peidong Yang. Acc. Chem. Res. 50, 476–481 (2017).
  • “Semiconductor-Cell Bio-interface Roadmap: Semiconductor-Microorganism Catalytic Biohybrid Systems For Artificial Photosynthesis”, Stefano Cestellos-Blanco, and Peidong Yang. Phys. Biol., 15, 031002–33 (2018).
  • “Physical Biology of the Materials-Microorganism Interface”, Kelsey Sakimoto, Nikolay Kornienko*, Stefano Cestellos-Blanco*, Jongwoo Lim, Chong Liu, and Peidong Yang. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 140, 1978–1985 (2018).
  • “Cytoprotective metal-organic frameworks for anaerobic bacteria”, Zhe Ji*, Hao Zhang*, Hao Liu, Omar M. Yaghi, and Peidong Yang. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 115, 10582–10587 (2018).
  • “Bacteria photosensitized by intracellular gold nanoclusters for solar fuel production”, Hao Zhang*, Hao Liu*, Zhiquan Tian, Dylan Lu, Yi Yu, Stefano Cestellos-Blanco, Kelsey Sakimoto, and Peidong Yang. Nature Nanotechnology, 13, 900–905
  • “Semi-artificial photosynthesis: interfacing nature’s catalytic machinery with synthetic materials”, Nikolay Kornienko, Jenny Zhang, Kelsey Sakimoto, Peidong Yang, and Erwin Reisner. Nature Nanotechnology, 13, 890–899 (2018)
  • “Photosynthetic semiconductor biohybrids for solar-driven biocatalysis”, Stefano Cestellos-Blanco, Hao Zhang, Ji Min Kim, Yue-xiao Shen and Peidong Yang. Nature Catalysis, 3, 245–255 (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41929-020-0428-y.
  • “Close-packed nanowire-bacteria hybrids for efficient solar-driven CO2 fixation”, Yude Su*, Stefano Cestellos-Blanco*, Ji Min Kim*, Yue-xiao Shen, Qiao Kong, Dylan Lu, Chong Liu, Hao Zhang, Yuhong Cao, Peidong Yang. Joule, 4, 800–811 (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2020.03.001.
  • “Microbes 2.0: Engineering Microbes with Nanomaterials”, Rong Cai, Ji Min Kim, Stefano Cestellos-Blanco, Jianbo Jin, and Peidong Yang. AsiaChem, 1, 36-41 (2020). DOI: 10.51167/acm00009.


Explore other research projects: