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In a step toward synthetic solar conversion systems, the ORNL researchers have demonstrated and confirmed with small-angle neutron scattering analysis that light harvesting complex II (LHC-II) proteins can self-assemble with polymers into a synthetic membrane structure and produce hydrogen.
Neutron scattering analysis performed at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory reveals the lamellar structure of a hydrogen-producing, biohybrid composite material formed by the self-assembly of naturally occurring, light harvesting proteins with polymers. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
based on the interaction of photosynthetic plant proteins with synthetic polymers -- that can convert visible light into hydrogen fuel. Photosynthesis, the natural process carried out by plants, algae and some bacterial species, converts sunlight energy into chemical energy and sustains much of the life on earth. Researchers have long sought inspiration from photosynthesis to develop new materials to harness the sun's energy for electricity and fuel production.