European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Development of a Semi-Artificial Chloroplast

Project description

Promising news for producing renewable fuel through semi-artificial photosynthesis

Photosynthesis, the light-driven process plants use to convert carbon dioxide and water into high-energy sugars has sustained them for millennia. Scientists are looking to capitalise on nature’s efforts with a mixture of biological and synthetic materials in the hopes of providing clean and renewable fuel for the future. Finding suitable materials for CO2 reduction and water oxidation come up as major roadblocks to pushing the efficiency of artificial photosynthesis. The EU-funded SmArtC project plans to find better natural and synthetic materials that will do this. The project will exploit the high water oxidation potential of Photosystem II with the high CO2-reduction potential of a dual system based on iron porphyrin and an organic dye.


The transition to a green and sustainable energy-based economy is one of the most critical challenges of our society. In this line, the production of chemicals and fuels from renewable energy, CO2 and water as primary feedstocks is an attractive alternative to solve the increasing worldwide demand for resources. Taking inspiration from Natural Photosynthesis, where sunlight energy is stored into chemical bonds producing only O2 as a by-product, an appealing approach is the use of sunlight as a driving force to produce renewable fuels from CO2 and water using artificial photosynthesis (AP). Unfortunately, efficient CO2 reduction and water oxidation (WO) remain bottlenecks in the development of efficient AP. Particularly challenging is the selective CO2-reduction due to the number of accessible reaction pathways with a similar thermodynamic reduction potential. The current proposal aims to develop a semiartificial photosynthetic system to revolutionise solar fuel production taking the advantages of both biologic (selectivity and low energy barriers due to structural complexity) and synthetic molecular systems (efficiency and straightforward modification and study) and overcome the limitations of both worlds themselves. This is a unique approach where the combination of natural enzymes with artificial systems (metal catalysts, light absorbers and synthetic membranes) will lead to new solar-fuel production schemes not achievable by natural or molecular catalysts alone. As such, SmArtC aims to embed Photosystem II (PSII), in a membrane of a liposome and couple its WO activity with the photocatalytic CO2-reduction-to-methane reactivity of a highly efficient and selective dual photocatalytic system based on an iron porphyrin catalyst and an organic dye, also embedded into the liposome. This proposal would achieve the long-standing goal of the use of water as an electron donor, CO2 as primary carbon feedstock and sunlight as a driving force to produce carbon-based fuels.


Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom

See on map

East of England East Anglia Cambridgeshire CC
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 212 933,76