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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2019-11-06 18:05:46
    • Article ID: 722189

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    • Credit: Image courtesy of Wiley-VCH (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 58, 4896 (2019)).

      Plasmonic artificial cells are formed by self-assembly of Au–Ag nanorods into hollow compartments.

    The Science

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the fundamental unit that all living things use to carry and provide energy to run processes in cells. The scientists developed one group of artificial cells that generates protons when it is exposed to light. They also developed different artificial cells that contain an enzyme that can use these protons to generate ATP. The team then connected the two types of cells together.

    The Impact

    This artificial cell design uses tiny rods (nanorods) made of silver and gold to create a biological cell wall similar to those in nature. These rods are in contrast to the lipids (such as fats and fatty acids) that biological cells use to make cell walls. These nanorods respond to light in a way that speeds up how quickly certain proteins can produce protons.

    Summary

    Recent efforts to make artificial cells have membranes packed with nanoparticles and assembled into a colloidal capsule. The membrane substance itself offers advantages including tunable pores through which ions can pass. However, the membrane material also may influence inherent processes of interest within the artificial cells. This study was designed to develop an understanding of such effects. Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory, a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility, created light-responsive artificial cells using so-called plasmonic materials –nanosystems that can interact with light in unique ways – for the colloidal capsules. In addition, a light-gated protein is used to drive a photo-activated synthesis process. The artificial cells have a colloid packed with silver-gold (Au-Ag) nanorods which self-assemble into capsules. Furthermore, the Au-Ag nanorods attain a plasmon resonance under certain light conditions. The light-activated protein bacteriorhodopsin was then attached onto the surface of the capsule. Bacteriorhodopsin was chosen for its ability to transport protons across a membrane under illumination. The bacteriorhodopsin captures light energy, uses that energy to pump protons across the membrane, and converts the differences in proton concentrations into chemical energy. The cell-like potential of this design was further demonstrated by leveraging the protons as “chemical signals” for triggering ATP biosynthesis in a coexistent artificial cell population. In total, the artificial cells perform consistently with design objectives. The broad plasmon resonance of the Au-Ag colloidal capsules enhanced the probability of photoreaction by the light-activated protein, thus creating a new light-controllable synthetic “protocell.” The synthetic protocell model offers opportunities for developing alternative solar-to-chemical energy conversion systems.

     

    Funding

    This material, based upon work supported by Argonne National Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funds, and use of the Center for Nanoscale Materials, an Office of Science user facility, was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under contract no. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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    Exploring Blended Materials Along Compositional Gradients

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    JSA Announces 10 New Graduate Fellows

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    Accelerator Makes Cross-Country Trek to Enable Laser Upgrade

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    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

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    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

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    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

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    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

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    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

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    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

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    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

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    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

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    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


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