J. Am. Chem. Soc. 144 (30) 13600-13611 [2022-08-03; online 2022-07-21]
A semiartificial photosynthesis approach that utilizes enzymes for solar fuel production relies on efficient photosensitizers that should match the enzyme activity and enable long-term stability. Polymer dots (Pdots) are biocompatible photosensitizers that are stable at pH 7 and have a readily modifiable surface morphology. Therefore, Pdots can be considered potential photosensitizers to drive such enzyme-based systems for solar fuel formation. This work introduces and unveils in detail the interaction within the biohybrid assembly composed of binary Pdots and the HydA1 [FeFe]-hydrogenase from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. The direct attachment of hydrogenase on the surface of toroid-shaped Pdots was confirmed by agarose gel electrophoresis, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (Cryo-TEM), and cryogenic electron tomography (Cryo-ET). Ultrafast transient spectroscopic techniques were used to characterize photoinduced excitation and dissociation into charges within Pdots. The study reveals that implementation of a donor-acceptor architecture for heterojunction Pdots leads to efficient subpicosecond charge separation and thus enhances hydrogen evolution (88 460 μmolH2·gH2ase-1·h-1). Adsorption of [FeFe]-hydrogenase onto Pdots resulted in a stable biohybrid assembly, where hydrogen production persisted for days, reaching a TON of 37 500 ± 1290 in the presence of a redox mediator. This work represents an example of a homogeneous biohybrid system combining polymer nanoparticles and an enzyme. Detailed spectroscopic studies provide a mechanistic understanding of light harvesting, charge separation, and transport studied, which is essential for building semiartificial photosynthetic systems with efficiencies beyond natural and artificial systems.