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Congratulations to Barney Slater, 2014 cohort PhD student in the BBSRC DTP Programme, for publishing the paper ‘Solar Water Splitting with a Hydrogenase Integrated in Photoelectrochemical Tandem Cells’ in Angewandte Chemie.


Hydrogenases (H2ases) are benchmark electrocatalysts for H2 production, both in biology and (photo)catalysis in vitro. We report the tailoring of a p‐type Si photocathode for optimal loading and wiring of H2ase through the introduction of a hierarchical inverse opal (IO) TiO2 interlayer. This proton‐reducing Si|IO‐TiO2|H2ase photocathode is capable of driving overall water splitting in combination with a photoanode. We demonstrate unassisted (bias‐free) water splitting by wiring Si|IO‐TiO2|H2ase to a modified BiVO4 photoanode in a photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell during several hours of irradiation. Connecting the Si|IO‐TiO2|H2ase to a photosystem II (PSII) photoanode provides proof of concept for an engineered Z‐scheme that replaces the non‐complementary, natural light absorber photosystem I with a complementary abiotic silicon photocathode. 

To read the full publication, please click here.

Barney's research is centred on elucidating the function of cytochrome c6A, a protein found in the chloroplasts of land plants and green algae that is similar in structure to cytochrome c6, but does not perform the same function in photosynthesis. Barney is analysing mutants of the unicellular algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii that either overexpress or knock down expression of cytochrome c6A, as well as measuring expression of cytochrome c6A under various conditions to determine what scenarios trigger regulation.

Barney is also investigating some features of cytochrome c6A that differ it from cytochrome c6. These features include single amino acids that contribute to a large difference in redox midpoint potential between the two cytochromes, and a sequence of 12 amino acids called the loop insertion peptide that is found exclusively in cytochrome c6A. Analysis of these unique features could lead to understanding how cytochrome c6A fits into the light reaction of photosynthesis.

Determining the molecular function of cytochrome c6A will lead to further understanding on how photosynthesis is regulated, which in turn could lead to new methods of optimising plant growth in agriculture and industry.