Increased understanding of photosynthetic energy conversion and advances in chemical synthesis and instrumentation have made it possible to create artificial nanoscale devices and semibiological hybrids that carry out many of the functions of the natural process. Artificial light-harvesting antennas can be synthesized and linked to artificial reaction centers that convert excitation energy to chemical potential in the form of long-lived charge separation. Artificial reaction centers can form the basis for molecular-level optoelectronic devices. In addition, they may be incorporated into the lipid bilayer membranes of artificial vesicles, where they function as components of light-driven proton pumps that generate transmembrane proton motive force. The proton gradient may be used to synthesize adenosine triphosphate via an ATP synthase enzyme. The overall energy transduction process in the liposomal system mimics the solar energy conversion system of a photosynthetic bacterium. The results of this research illustrate the advantages of designing functional nanoscale devices based on biological paradigms.
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