Researchers Discover a New Way to Convert Light into Energy


In a study conducted by researchers from Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, cell-like empty capsule structures created. This creation was made possible through the natural process of self-assembly of hybrid silver-gold nanorods that are held together through weak interactions.

Meanwhile, after covering the walls of these capsules with a protein called bacteriorhodopsin, the researchers channelize the protons in one single way, which is from the inside of the artificial cells to the outside environment. Bacteriorhodopsin is a light-sensitive membrane protein.

The Study Aimed at Figuring Out How Cells do their Biological Tasks 

Elena Rozhkova is a nanoscientist and an author of the study. Rozhkova said that nature makes use of compartmentalization technique to perform biological tasks as it pulls in the ingredients needed for chemical reactions. She further says that the aim is to copy nature utilizing lifeless substances to figure out how cells do their biological tasks. Furthermore, the key to this research lies in the coupling of artificial cells. These artificial cells produce protons to a second and distant group of those cells. Additionally, these artificial cells have molecular motor machinery utilizing a proton gradient to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This molecule considered the rudimentary unit of energy currency in the biological systems. On exposure to light, ATP was measured in terms of biologically significant concentrations, Rozhkova said.

Zhaowei Chen is the first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher. Chen stated that the whole idea behind the research is the communication between two systems. Besides, one of the systems reacts to light and produces proton. Meanwhile,the other system makes use of this proton gradient to produce ATP, thereby changing light into energy stored inside the chemical bond.

This research carried out at the Center for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory. In addition, the researchers also made a simulation of the photonic features of the artificial cells.

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