Photoelectrochemical Complexes for Solar Energy Conversion That Dynamically, Reversibly and Autonomously Self-Assemble

Wednesday, October 19, 2011: 4:45 PM
102 F (Minneapolis Convention Center)
Ardemis A. Boghossian1, Jong Hyun Choi2, Moon-Ho Ham1, Esther S. Jeng3, Rachel A. Graff4, Daniel A. Heller1, Alice C. Chang3, Aidas Mattis5, Timothy H. Bayburt6, Yelena V. Grinkova6, Adam Scott Zeiger7, Krystyn J. Van Vliet8, Erik K. Hobbie9, Stephen G. Sligar6, Colin A. Wraight6 and Michael Strano3, (1)Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, (2)Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, (3)Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, (4)Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, (5)Department of Biochemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, (6)Biochemistry, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, (7)Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, (8)Materials Science and Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA, (9)Polymers Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD

Photoelectrochemical complexes for solar energy conversion that dynamically, reversibly and autonomously self-assemble

Naturally occurring photosynthetic systems use elaborate pathways of self-repair to limit the impact of photo-damage. Here, we demonstrate a complex consisting of an aqueous solution containing photosynthetic reaction centers (RCs), membrane scaffold proteins (MSPs), phospholipids, and single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) solubilized with the surfactant sodium cholate (SC) that mimics this process.(1) The components reversibly self-assemble into a highly ordered structure upon dialysis of the surfactant. The resulting assembled structure is photoelectrochemically active and consists of 4-nm-thick lipid bilayer disks (nanodisks, NDs) arranged parallel to the surface of the SWCNT with the RC housed within the bilayer such that its hole injecting site faces the nanotube surface. The structure can be assembled and disassembled autonomously with the addition or removal of surfactant. We model the kinetic and thermodynamic forces that drive the dynamics of this reversible self-assembly process.(2) The assembly is monitored using spectrofluorimetry during dialysis and subsequent surfactant addition and used to fit a kinetic model to determine the forward and reverse rate constants of ND and ND-SWCNT formation. The calculated ND and ND-SWCNT forward rate constants are 79 mM−1 s−1 and 5.4 × 102 mM−1 s−1, respectively, and the reverse rate constants are negligible over the dialysis time scale. We find that the reaction is not diffusion-controlled since the ND-SWCNT reaction, which consists of entities with smaller diffusion coefficients, has a larger reaction rate constant. Using these rate parameters, we were able to develop a kinetic phase diagram for the formation of ND-SWCNT complexes, which indicates an optimal dialysis rate of approximately 8 × 10−4 s−1.  

The assembly is thermodynamically metastable and can only transition reversibly if the rate of surfactant removal exceeds a threshold value. Only in the assembled state do the complexes exhibit photoelectrochemical activity. We experimentally demonstrate a regeneration cycle that uses surfactant to switch between assembled and disassembled states, resulting in an increased photoconversion efficiency of more than 300% over 168 hours and an indefinite extension of the system lifetime. The system can disassemble and reassemble over an indefinite number of cycles. We also fit the model to these cyclic ND-SWCNT assembly and disassembly experiments and hence mimic the thermodynamic forces used in regeneration processes detailed previously. Such forces may form the basis of both synthetic and natural photoelectrochemical complexes capable of dynamic component replacement and repair.


  1. Ham MH, Choi JH, Boghossian AA, Jeng ES, Graff R.A, Heller DA, Chang AC, Mattis A, Bayburt TH, Grinkova YV, Zeiger AS, Van Vliet KJ, Hobbie EK, Sligar SG, Wraight CA and Strano MS: Photoelectrochemical complexes for solar energy conversion that chemically and autonomously regenerate. NATURE CHEMISTRY, 2 (2010) 929-936.


  1. Boghossian AA,  Choi JH, Ham MH and Strano MS: Dynamical and Reversible Self-Assembly of Photoelectrochemical Complexes Based on Lipid Bilayer Disks, Photosynthetic Reaction Centers, and Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes. Langmuir, 27 (2011) 1599-160

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