A mechanoresponsive phase-changing electrolyte enables fabrication of high-output solid-state photobioelectrochemical devices from pigment-protein multilayers

Sai Kishore Ravi, David J. K. Swainsbury, Varun Kumar Singh, Yoke Keng Ngeow, Michael R. Jones, Swee Ching Tan

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43 Citations (Scopus)


Exploitation of natural photovoltaic reaction center pigment proteins in biohybrid architectures for solar energy harvesting is attractive due to their global abundance, environmental compatibility, and near-unity quantum efficiencies. However, it is challenging to achieve high photocurrents in a device setup due to limitations imposed by low light absorbance by protein monolayers and/or slow long-range diffusion of liquid-phase charge carriers. In an attempt to enhance the photocurrent density achievable by pigment proteins, here, an alternative solid-state device architecture enabled by a mechanoresponsive gel electrolyte that can be applied under nondenaturing conditions is demonstrated. The phase-changing electrolyte gel provides a pervading biocompatible interface for charge conduction through highly absorbing protein multilayers that are fabricated in a simple fashion. Assembled devices exhibit enhanced current stability and a maximal photoresponse of ≈860 µA cm−2, a fivefold improvement over the best previous comparable devices under standard illumination conditions. Photocurrent generation is enhanced by directional energy transfer through extended layers of light-harvesting complexes, mimicking the modular antenna/transducer architecture of natural photosystems, and by metastable radical pair formation when photovoltaic reaction centers are embedded throughout light-harvesting regions of the device.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1704073
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • bio-photovoltaics
  • mechanoresponsive gels
  • photosynthetic reaction centers
  • solid-state solar cells

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