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Hierarchical organization of perylene bisimides and polyoxometalates for photo-assisted water oxidation

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 13 March 2019

This article has been updated


The oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere is there primarily because of water oxidation performed by photosynthetic organisms using solar light and one specialized protein complex, photosystem II (PSII). High-resolution imaging of the PSII ‘core’ complex shows the ideal co-localization of multi-chromophore light-harvesting antennas with the functional reaction centre. Man-made systems are still far from replicating the complexity of PSII, as the majority of PSII mimetics have been limited to photocatalytic dyads based on a 1:1 ratio of a light absorber, generally a Ru–polypyridine complex, with a water oxidation catalyst. Here we report the self-assembly of multi-perylene-bisimide chromophores (PBI) shaped to function by interaction with a polyoxometalate water-oxidation catalyst (Ru4POM). The resulting [PBI]5Ru4POM complex shows a robust amphiphilic structure and dynamic aggregation into large two-dimensional paracrystalline domains, a redshifted light-harvesting efficiency of >40% and favourable exciton accumulation, with a peak quantum efficiency using ‘green’ photons (λ > 500 nm). The modularity of the building blocks and the simplicity of the non-covalent chemistry offer opportunities for innovation in artificial photosynthesis.

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Fig. 1: Characterization of the {[PBI]5Ru4POM}n photosynthetic assembly.
Fig. 2: Hierarchical organization of {[PBI]5Ru4POM}n photosynthetic aggregates.
Fig. 3: Femtosecond transient absorption dynamics of oxygenic {[PBI]5Ru4POM}n.
Fig. 4: Characterization of nanoWO3|{[PBI]5Ru4POM}n photoanodes.

Data availability

The data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article and its Supplementary Information files. All other relevant source data are available from the corresponding authors upon request.

Change history

  • 13 March 2019

    In the version of this Article originally published, in the graphical abstract the y-axis units of the plot read ‘mA cm–2’, but should have read ‘μA cm–2’. Additionally, an erroneous gap appeared in the red trace. These errors have now been corrected.


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This work was supported by the Italian Ministero dell’Istruzione, Università e Ricerca (FIRB RBAP11C58Y, PRIN-2010N3T9M4), the Universities of Padova and Trieste, INSTM, and the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no. 310651 (SACS project). Beamtime obtained at the facilities ELETTRA- Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A. and CERIC-ERIC consortium is acknowledged.

Author information




Z.S., E.P. and F.R. carried out the synthesis and characterization experiments. M.Burian and H.A. conducted the WAXS and SAXS structural investigations. N.M. isolated and characterized the hexagonal crystalline aggregates. N.M. and N.D. conducted the X-ray diffraction analysis. K.D. and D.M.G. designed and analysed the fsTA studies. G.A.V. and G.L. optimized the oxygenic activity and photocurrent performance. S.B., S.C. and C.A.B. conducted the photoelectrochemical cell experiments. A.S. analysed the solution and photoelectrochemical cell results. M.Bonchio and M.P. designed the experiments and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Marcella Bonchio or Maurizio Prato.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Materials and Methods, Supplementary Figs 1–18, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2

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Bonchio, M., Syrgiannis, Z., Burian, M. et al. Hierarchical organization of perylene bisimides and polyoxometalates for photo-assisted water oxidation. Nature Chem 11, 146–153 (2019).

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