Artificial light-driven ion pump for photoelectric energy conversion

Kai Xiao, Lu Chen, Ruotian Chen, Tobias Heil, Saul Daniel Cruz Lemus, Fengtao Fan, Liping Wen, Lei Jiang, Markus Antonietti

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30 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number74
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this

Xiao, K., Chen, L., Chen, R., Heil, T., Lemus, S. D. C., Fan, F., Wen, L., Jiang, L., & Antonietti, M. (2019). Artificial light-driven ion pump for photoelectric energy conversion. Nature Communications, 10, [74].