The cell is the basic unit of all living organisms. It is an amazing machine capable of self-replicating, growing, and synthesizing and shuttling thousands of compounds. To perform all of these activities the cell needs energy. The original source of energy for all living beings is the Sun. The energy of the sun is collected by the autotrophs (mostly plants) through photosynthesis and stored in the chemical bonds of carbohydrates and lipids through carboxylic acid intermediates; animals use these compounds to obtain the energy for their cells. Most of the energy extracted by the cell comes from the citric acid cycle. Therefore, two crucial energy transfer checkpoints are photosynthesis and citric acid cycle. With growing need for energy, the limited supply of fossil fuel, and the search for a cleaner environment, scientists have turned to the Sun (directly or indirectly through wind, tides, biomass, etc.) to satisfy the needs of modern society trying to reach the dual Holy Grail of energy: harvesting energy through Artificial Photosynthesis and Low Temperature Biomass Oxidation. This work represents one more step toward reaching these Holy Grails. The core reagent used in our technique is ferritin. Ferritin recapitulates some of the essential features of a plant cell: it contains a semiconductor capable of charge separation, like chlorophyll, acts as a membrane to isolate compartments, and has an enzymatic activity that prevents charge build up and oxidative damage. The energy absorbed by ferritin from the artificial “solar” radiation is used to extract reducing equivalents from stable and partially oxidized compounds, mainly carboxylic acids. The energized electrons produced are then used for a number of technical applications, from synthesis of catalytically active nanoparticles, to reductive precipitation of contaminant heavy metals (i.e.: mercury), to hydrogen evolution.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



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ferritin, artificial photosynthesis, biomass, carboxylic acids, photochemistry, photo catalyst, photosynthesis, renewable energy, gold nanoparticles, mercury, decontamination, bioremediation, silver nanoparticles, hydrogen evolution, hydrogen catalyst, methyl viologen, platinum nanoparticles, palladium nanoparticles