New photocatalytic system converts carbon dioxide to valuable fuel more efficiently than natural photosynthesis

A joint analysis staff from Metropolis College of Hong Kong (CityU) and collaborators have developed a steady synthetic photocatalytic system that’s extra environment friendly than pure photosynthesis. The brand new system mimics a pure chloroplast to transform carbon dioxide in water into methane, very effectively utilizing gentle.

A paper on this staff’s newest work was revealed in Nature Catalysis.


A hierarchical self-assembly photocatalytic system (left) mimics the pure photosynthesis equipment of a purple micro organism, known as Rhodobacter sphaeroides (proper), reaching 15% solar-to-fuel effectivity when changing carbon dioxide into methane.
Photograph credit score: (left) Professor Ye Ruquan’s analysis group / Metropolis College of Hong Kong and (proper) Biophysical Journal, 99:67-75, 2010.

Photosynthesis is the method by which chloroplasts in vegetation and a few organisms use daylight, water and carbon dioxide to create meals or power. In previous many years, many scientists have tried to develop synthetic photosynthesis processes to show carbon dioxide into carbon-neutral gas.

Nevertheless, it’s troublesome to transform carbon dioxide in water as a result of many photosensitizers or catalysts degrade in water. Though synthetic photocatalytic cycles have been proven to function with greater intrinsic effectivity, the low selectivity and stability in water for carbon dioxide discount have hampered their sensible purposes.

—Professor Ye Ruquan, Affiliate Professor within the Division of Chemistry at CityU, co-corresponding creator

On this newest examine, the joint-research staff from CityU, The College of Hong Kong (HKU), Jiangsu College and the Shanghai Institute of Natural Chemistry of the Chinese language Academy of Sciences overcame these difficulties by utilizing a supramolecular meeting method to create a synthetic photosynthetic system.

It mimics the construction of a purple micro organism’s light-harvesting chromatophores (i.e. cells that include pigment), that are very environment friendly at transferring power from the solar.


Formation of a hydrogen-bond enhanced nanomicelle and its hydrogen manufacturing and carbon dioxide discount beneath photo voltaic power. Photograph credit score: Professor Ye Ruquan’s analysis group / Metropolis College of Hong Kong

The core of the brand new synthetic photosynthetic system is a extremely steady synthetic nanomicelle—a sort of polymer that may self-assemble in water, with each a water-loving (hydrophilic) and a water-fearing (hydrophobic) finish.

The nanomicelle’s hydrophilic head capabilities as a photosensitizer to soak up daylight, and its hydrophobic tail acts as an inducer for self-assembly. When it’s positioned in water, the nanomicelles self-assemble as a result of intermolecular hydrogen bonding between the water molecules and the tails. Including a cobalt catalyst ends in photocatalytic hydrogen manufacturing and carbon dioxide discount, ensuing within the manufacturing of hydrogen and methane.

Utilizing superior imaging strategies and ultrafast spectroscopy, the staff unveiled the atomic options of the modern photosensitizer. They found that the particular construction of the nanomicelle’s hydrophilic head, together with the hydrogen bonding between water molecules and the nanomicelle’s tail, make it a steady, water-compatible synthetic photosensitizer, fixing the traditional instability and water-incompatibility drawback of synthetic photosynthesis. The electrostatic interplay between the photosensitizer and the cobalt catalyst, and the robust light-harvesting antenna impact of the nanomicelle improved the photocatalytic course of.

Within the experiment, the staff discovered that the methane manufacturing charge was greater than 13,000 μmol h−1 g−1, with a quantum yield of 5.6% over 24 hours. It additionally achieved a extremely environment friendly solar-to-fuel effectivity charge of 15%, surpassing pure photosynthesis.

Most significantly, the brand new synthetic photocatalytic system is economically viable and sustainable, because it doesn’t depend on costly valuable metals.

The hierarchical self-assembly of the system presents a promising bottom-up technique to create a exactly managed, high-performance synthetic photocatalytic system primarily based on low-cost, Earth-abundant components, like zinc and cobalt porphyrin complexes.

—Professor Ye

The examine was supported by numerous funding sources, together with the Nationwide Pure Science Basis of China, the Guangdong Primary and Utilized Primary Analysis Fund, the Shenzhen Science and Expertise Program, and the Hong Kong Analysis Grant Council.


  • Yu, J., Huang, L., Tang, Q. et al. (2023) “Synthetic spherical chromatophore nanomicelles for selective CO2 discount in water.” Nat Catal 6, 464–475 doi: 10.1038/s41929-023-00962-z

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