SolarBioChip: development of a solar bio-battery for printed bioelectronics

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Chemistry


We have recently described the development of a printed cyanobacterial biobattery with potential
application as a biodegradable power supply for low-power devices including biosensors and
printed bioelectronics (Sawa M, Fantuzzi A, Bombelli P, Howe CJ, Hellgardt K & Nixon PJ (2017):
Electricity generation from digitally printed cyanobacteria. Nature Commun. 8, 1327). The biobattery
is conveniently fabricated by a scalable inkjet method to print both cyanobacterial cells and carbon
nanotube electrode surfaces on which the cells grow as a biofilm. In the light, the printed device
acts as a biophotovoltaic cell producing electrical current from electrons released from the cell
during photosynthetic electron transport. Importantly, the biobattery can also produce electricity in
the dark from the breakdown of stored products of photosynthesis, such as carbohydrate. The aim
of this project is to improve the power output of the first-generation solar biobattery so that it can
meet the power requirement for use in printed bioelectronics, as defined in collaboration with ARM
PLC. Areas for investigation include the development of novel cyanobacterial strains (Nixon), the
testing of novel electrode materials for improved conductance and biocompatibility (Shaffer), the
development of robust printing techniques and composite design (Hellgardt) and the testing of
devices in printed electronic devices (ARM PLC). Ultimately, we aim to fabricate a semi-living
electronic device powered by sunlight using cyanobacterial cells - the 'solarbiochip'.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023518/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2279895 Studentship EP/S023518/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2022 Alexander Ford