In situ Time-Resolved Spectroelectrochemistry Reveals Limitations of Biohybrid Photoelectrode Performance

07 June 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Photosynthetic reaction centres catalyse the majority of solar energy conversion on Earth. These pigment proteins achieve this goal with a near-unity quantum efficiency, transducing the energy of almost every absorbed photon into that of a charge separated state. Capturing the high efficiency of these natural proteins with man-made electrodes is the goal of biohybrid technologies such as biophotovoltaics, biofuel cells and biosensors. However, the removal of reaction centres from their natural cellular environment and their integration into an abiotic biohybrid architecture invariably introduces loss channels that compromise energy conversion efficiency. Here, we developed the combined use of spectroscopy and analytical electrochemistry to identify electron transfer bottlenecks, back-reactions and short-circuits that affect the performance of a bacterial reaction centre-based biophotoelectrode. We determined that the system was over 90% efficient under low intensity light but dropped to ~10% efficiency under intense continuous illumination. Limitations and loss processes included bottlenecks in electron transfer that rendered 62% of reaction centres inactive, as well as a short-circuiting of 73% of the photochemical product from active reaction centres. These findings will help shape rational design strategies for improving the performance of biohybrid devices and may be more broadly applied to other donor-acceptor type photocatalysts.


pump-probe spectroscopy
reaction centre


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