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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gold electrode electrochemistry in protein based solar cells Iranpour, Bahar


The high quantum efficiency of photosynthetic reaction centers makes them candidates for use in solar energy harvesting devices. A bio-photovoltaic cell can be made by dissolving reaction centers and two mediators, such as quinone and cytochrome c, in the conductive electrolyte of an electrochemical cell. The mediators transfer the photo-generated charges to the electrodes upon illumination. So far such protein-based devices have shown low overall power conversion efficiency. Previously it has been shown that slow charge transfer limits the efficiency of these devices. Moreover, it has been observed that the cell response is dependent on the electrode materials and their interactions with the proteins and the mediators. In this thesis, the importance of the cleanliness of the system, the adsorption of two types of reaction centers: Wild-type and cysteineless, two mediators: quinone and cytochrome c, and detergents (used to make the reaction center water soluble) on a gold electrode are investigated. It is shown that common cleaning methods such as sonication in a mixture of deionized water and ethyl alcohol, sulfuric acid potential cycling, and piranha solution may not be practical and sufficient to remove the reaction centers and mediators from the electrodes and the container. Additionally, it is shown that eliminating oxygen can result in the reduction of unwanted parasitic reactions in the cell, which could lower the generated photocurrent and hence the overall efficiency of the cell. Therefore, new methods for cleaning and a new cell design are proposed and used throughout the experiments. Capacitance measurements, using cyclic voltammetry and AC voltammetry techniques, in the absence and the presence of each of the cell analytes suggest that unmodified reaction centers, detergents, and the mediators bind to the surface of the gold electrode irreversibly. Finally, it is shown that cysteineless reaction centers also adsorb irreversibly on the surface of the gold, demonstrating that cysteine S-Au bonding is not the only irreversible binding mechanism.

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