Research Fellows Directory
Dr Liyun Zhang
University of Oxford
The development of robust systems for conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels is an important area in renewable energy research. Through artificial photosynthesis (AP) it should prove possible to use vacant areas of the Earth’s surface. Research into AP draws together chemistry, physics, materials and biology. It is helpful to code the different components in terms of their function, noting that they each have some overlap, i.e. Light (light harvesting and electron-hole separation), Electrons (electron transfers throughout the system) and Catalysis (transfers of electrons to catalysts performing the chemical steps that close the cycle). A fully integrated system (LEC) might consist of a semiconductor material to which are attached electrocatalysts for fuel formation and water oxidation. Enzymes are the best electrocatalysts so far investigated, both in terms of efficiency and per-active-site turnover frequency. Our project is aimed at gaining a much improved understanding of the operation and optimization of light-driven enzyme-catalysed solar fuel production, by introducing new chemical and bioanalytical agents into key parts of the LEC assembly. A range of molecules with desirable linker properties as well as light-absorbing will be used to: (i) optimize the attachment of enzymes to different semiconductor surfaces; (ii) enable optical quantification of the amount and distribution of enzymes on semiconductor surfaces and (iii) implant independent reporters to probe the kinetics of electron transfer between semiconductor and enzyme. The results should lead to superior light driven enzyme-based photoelectrochemical devices that will increase our understanding of rapid redox catalysis that depends on capturing transient charge carriers, notably, integrated light-driven solar fuel systems and pave the way for an AP future based on abundant elements.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)