Nanodesigned Electrochemical Converters of Solar Energy into Hydrogen Hosting Natural Enzymes or their Mimics


Project timeline
January 2009
42 months
June 2012
General Information
Leaves can split water into oxygen and hydrogen at ambient conditions exploiting sun light. Prof. James Barber, one of the key players of SOLHYDROMICS, was the recipient of the international Italgas Prize in 2005 for his studies on Photosystem II (PSII), the enzyme that governs this process. In photosynthesis, H2 is used to reduce CO2 and give rise to the various organic compounds needed by the organisms or even oily compounds which can be used as fuels.

However, a specific enzyme, hydrogenase, may lead to non-negligible H2 formation even within natural systems under given operating conditions. Building on this knowledge, and on the convergence of the work of the physics, materials scientists, biochemists and biologists involved in the project, an artificial device will be developed to convert sun energy into H2 with 10% efficiency by water splitting at ambient temperature, including: -) an electrode exposed to sunlight carrying PSII or a PSII-like chemical mimic deposited upon a suitable electrode -) a membrane enabling transport of both electrons and protons via e.g. carbon nanotubes or TiO2 connecting the two electrodes and ion-exchange resins like e.g. Nafion, respectively -) a cathode carrying the hydrogenase enzyme or an artificial hydrogenase catalyst in order to recombine protons and electrons into pure molecular hydrogen at the opposite side of the membrane.

The project involves a strong and partnership hosting highly ranked scientists (from the Imperial College London, the Politecnico di Torino and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht research centre on polymers in Geesthacht) who have a significant past cooperation record and four high-tech SMEs (Solaronix, Biodiversity, Nanocyl and Hysytech) to cover with expertise and no overlappings the key tasks of enzyme purification and enzyme mimics development, enzyme stabilisation on the electrodes, membrane development, design and manufacturing of the SOLHYDROMICS proof-of-concept prototype, market and technology implementation studies.
EU-Programme Acronym and Subprogramme AreaFP7-ENERGY-2008-FET; ENERGY.2008.10.1.1
Project TypeCollaborative Project (generic)
Contract NumberGrant Agreement 227192
Co-ordinatorPolitecnico di Torino (IT)
Total Eligible Costs (€) HZG Eligible Costs (€) EC Funding for HZG (€)
Contact Person at HZG Dr. Katrin Ebert, Institute of Materials Research, WTE Phone: +49 4152 87 2476, Fax : +49 4152 87 2444
E-mail contact
Worldwide Europe

Biodiversity S.P.A (IT), Hysytech S.R.L. (IT), Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (GB), Nanocyl S.A. (BE), Politecnico di Torino (IT), Solaronix S.A. (CH)
Last Update: 15. May 2017