Self-organized photosynthetic nanoparticle for cell-free hydrogen production

Nat Nanotechnol. 2010 Jan;5(1):73-9. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2009.315. Epub 2009 Nov 8.


There is considerable interest in making use of solar energy through photosynthesis to create alternative forms of fuel. Here, we show that photosystem I from a thermophilic bacterium and cytochrome-c(6) can, in combination with a platinum catalyst, generate a stable supply of hydrogen in vitro upon illumination. The self-organized platinization of the photosystem I nanoparticles allows electron transport from sodium ascorbate to photosystem I via cytochrome-c(6) and finally to the platinum catalyst, where hydrogen gas is formed. Our system produces hydrogen at temperatures up to 55 degrees C and is temporally stable for >85 days with no decrease in hydrogen yield when tested intermittently. The maximum yield is approximately 5.5 micromol H(2) h(-1) mg(-1) chlorophyll and is estimated to be approximately 25-fold greater than current biomass-to-fuel strategies. Future work will further improve this yield by increasing the kinetics of electron transfer, extending the spectral response and replacing the platinum catalyst with a renewable hydrogenase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bioelectric Energy Sources*
  • Catalysis
  • Cyanobacteria / chemistry
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism*
  • Cytochromes c6 / isolation & purification
  • Cytochromes c6 / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex / isolation & purification
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex / metabolism*
  • Platinum / chemistry
  • Protein Stability
  • Temperature


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytochromes c6
  • Photosystem I Protein Complex
  • Platinum
  • Hydrogen