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Nat Commun. 2019 Jan 8;10(1):74. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08029-5.

Artificial light-driven ion pump for photoelectric energy conversion.

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Department of Colloid Chemistry, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, 14476, Potsdam, Germany.
Department of Colloid Chemistry, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, 14476, Potsdam, Germany.
Key Laboratory of Bio-inspired Smart Interfacial Science and Technology of Ministry of Education, School of Chemistry, Beihang University, Beijing, 100191, PR China.
State Key Laboratory of Catalysis, 2011-iChEM, Dalian National Laboratory for Clean Energy (DNL), Dalian Institute of Chemical Physic (DICP), Zhongshan Road 457, Dalian, 116023, PR China.
Key Laboratory of Bio-inspired Materials and Interfacial Science, Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100190, PR China.
School of Future Technologies, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 101407, PR China.


Biological light-driven ion pumps move ions against a concentration gradient to create a membrane potential, thus converting sunlight energy directly into an osmotic potential. Here, we describe an artificial light-driven ion pump system in which a carbon nitride nanotube membrane can drive ions thermodynamically uphill against an up to 5000-fold concentration gradient by illumination. The separation of electrons and holes in the membrane under illumination results in a transmembrane potential which is thought to be the foundation for the pumping phenomenon. When used for harvesting solar energy, a sustained open circuit voltage of 550 mV and a current density of 2.4 μA/cm2 can reliably be generated, which can be further scaled up through series and parallel circuits of multiple membranes. The ion transport based photovoltaic system proposed here offers a roadmap for the development of devices by using simple, cheap, and stable polymeric carbon nitride.

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