Teaching Bacterium a New Trick

Scientists are teaching old bacterium some new tricks in an effort to advance artificial photosynthesis.

The bacterium Moorella thermoacetica has been trained to perform photosynthesis, even though it is non-photosynthetic. All of this comes with a push to convert sunlight into valuable chemical products for a cleaner, greener energy future.

“We’ve demonstrated the first self-photosensitization of a non-photosynthetic bacterium, M. thermoacetica, with cadmium sulfide nanoparticles to produce acetic acid from carbon dioxide at efficiencies and yield that are comparable to or may even exceed the capabilities of natural photosynthesis,” says Peidong Yang, lead researcher of this work.

Previously, Yang’s work has centered around the development of the artificial “leaf,” which aims to produce natural gas from carbon dioxide. This extension of that work is still in line with the development of a clean energy future.

(MORE: Read more of Yang’s research in the ECS Digital Library.)

“In our latest study, we combined the highly efficient light harvesting of an inorganic semiconductor with the high specificity, low cost, and self-replication and self-repair of a biocatalyst,” Yang says. “By inducing the self-photosensitization of M. thermoacetica with cadmium sulfide nanoparticles, we enabled the photosynthesis of acetic acid from carbon dioxide over several days of light-dark cycles at relatively high quantum yields, demonstrating a self-replicating route toward solar-to-chemical carbon dioxide reduction.”

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