, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 289-303

Properties of semiconductor electrodes coated with living films of cyanobacteria

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IntactPhormidium sp. cells, immobilized on a SnO2 semiconductor electrode, are capable of transferring electrons to SnO2 in a light-dependent reaction. Drying a “wet” algal electrode at 50°C for 60 min increases photocurrent output capacity by 100-fold. We have studied the effect of various parameters on photocurrent generation. The magnitude of the photocurrent increased with increasing light intensity and depended on the nature of the electrolyte solution. The output, about 8 μA 10 μg Chl−1 cm+2, was obtained using 50 mM H3BO3−Na2CO3−KCl buffer as an electrolyte, an irradiance (>460 nm) of 250 J/m2, and potentiostatic conditions (the algal working electrode was poised at +0.6 V vs a saturated calomel electrode). The yield was more than doubled upon addition of an electron carrier, such as methyl viologen, benzyl viologen, or Vitamin K3, to the electrolyte solution. Maximum photocurrent was obtained at around pH 8 and 45°C, which are optimal conditions for growth of the cyanobacterium. Furthermore, DCMU, an inhibitor of photosynthetic electron flow, drastically decreased the yield, as did heat treatment of the electrode at 110°C for 15 min. The photocurrent action spectrum peak coincided well with the absorption peak of the light-harvesting pigment, phycocyanin. These results support the idea that electron transfer can occur across algal cell walls from the source of the light-induced reactions located within the lamellar membranes to the semiconductor electrode.