Near-infrared (NIR)-driven rhodopsins are of great interest in optogenetics and other optobiotechnological developments such as artificial photosynthesis and deep-tissue voltage imaging. Here we report that the proton pump proteorhodopsin (PR) containing a NIR-active retinal analogue (PR:MMAR) exhibits intense NIR fluorescence at a quantum yield of 3.3%. This is 130 times higher than native PR (LenzM. O.LenzM. O.16603495Biophys J.200691255262) and 3–8 times higher than the QuasAr and PROPS voltage sensors (KraljJ.KraljJ.21764748Science2011333345348; HochbaumD. R.HochbaumD. R.24952910Nat. Methods201411825833). The NIR fluorescence strongly depends on the pH in the range of 6–8.5, suggesting potential application of MMAR-binding proteins as ultrasensitive NIR-driven pH and/or voltage sensors. Femtosecond transient absorption spectroscopy showed that upon near-IR excitation, PR:MMAR features an unusually long fluorescence lifetime of 310 ps and the absence of isomerized photoproducts, consistent with the high fluorescence quantum yield. Stimulated Raman analysis indicates that the NIR-absorbing species develops upon protonation of a conserved aspartate, which promotes charge delocalization and bond length leveling due to an additional methylamino group in MMAR, in essence providing a secondary protonated Schiff base. This results in much smaller bond length alteration along the conjugated backbone, thereby conferring significant single-bond character to the C13=C14 bond and structural deformation of the chromophore, which interferes with photoinduced isomerization and extends the lifetime for fluorescence. Hence, our studies allow for a molecular understanding of the relation between absorption/emission wavelength, isomerization, and fluorescence in PR:MMAR. As acidification enhances the resonance state, this explains the strong pH dependence of the NIR emission.
Chlorosomes are supramolecular aggregates that contain thousands of bacteriochlorophyll molecules. They perform the most efficient ultrafast excitation energy transfer of all natural light-harvesting complexes. Their broad absorption band optimizes light capture. In this study, we identify the microscopic sources of the disorder causing the spectral width and reveal how it affects the excited state properties and the optical response of the system. We combine molecular dynamics, quantum chemical calculations, and response function calculations to achieve this goal. The predicted linear and twodimensional electronic spectra are found to compare well with experimental data reproducing all key spectral features. Our analysis of the microscopic model reveals the interplay of static and dynamic disorder from the molecular perspective. We find that hydrogen bonding motifs are essential for a correct description of the spectral line shape. Furthermore, we find that exciton delocalization over tens to hundreds of molecules is consistent with the twodimensional electronic spectra.
carrier generation. [1,2] This has led to sig nificant interest in plasmonic nanostruc tures for photocatalysis, either through local heat generation or as a photo sensitizer. [3,4] Materials in the family of plasmonic transition metal nitrides (e.g., TiN, HfN, NbN, WN) feature high ther momechanical robustness and recently have been proposed for applications requiring extreme operating conditions, such as photothermal catalysis or solar thermophoto voltaics.  These materials have high melting points and demonstrate high temperature durability, chemical sta bility, and corrosion resistance, while pre senting an optical response similar to Au or Ag plasmonic nanostructures. [5,6] With a strong response in the visible range, high mechanical hardness, low material cost,  and outstanding performance in electro chemical reactions,  the photophysics of these materials requires further research. In the following, we will briefly review the current level of understanding of the photophysics of noble metal plasmonic particles, followed by a discussion on transition metal nitride plasmonic nanoparticles.Light absorption and heat generation by noble metal nano particles can be summarized as follows: first, the local surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) is excited, which lasts several fs and decays by nonradiative dephasing through Landau damp ening (1-100 fs). This process generates hot carriers at regions with high optical absorption (hotspots), the hot carriers subse quently decay by electron-electron scattering (1-100 fs) followed by electron-phonon coupling (0.1-10 ps). Ultimately, phonons dissipate heat to the surroundings (1-10 ns). [4,13,14] There is increasing interest in hot carrier processes, chemical reac tions induced by them, and determining whether the observed changes in chemical reactions are due to lattice heating or hot charge carriers. [15,16] Since elementary chemical transformations typically occur on a 1-100 ps timescale,  it is essential to characterize the light induced carrier dynamics and thermal relaxation of plasmonic systems that consist of nonnoble metal materials. Recent studies have shown that in particular hafnium nitride (HfN) performs well at converting light into heat through thermoplas monic relaxation. [18,19] This efficient lightinduced heating likely stems from a less negative real permittivity (ε′) and a higher imaginary permittivity (ε″) of HfN relative to noble metals, leading to a lossy plasmonic response accompanied by lower There is great interest in the development of alternatives to noble metals for plasmonic nanostructures. Transition metal nitrides are promising due to their robust refractory properties. However, the photophysics of these nanostructures, particularly the hot carrier dynamics and photothermal response on ultrafast timescales, are not well understood. This limits their implementation in applications such as photothermal catalysis or solar thermophotovoltaics. In this study, the light-induced relaxation processes in water-dispersed Hf...
Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells containing photocathodes based on functionalized NiO show a promising solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency. Here, we present mechanistic understanding of the photoinduced charge transfer processes occurring at the photocathode/electrolyte interface. We demonstrate via advanced photophysical characterization that surface hydroxyl groups formed at the NiO/water interface not only promote photoinduced hole transfer from the dye into NiO, but also enhance the rate of charge recombination. Both processes are significantly slower when the photocathode is exposed to dry acetonitrile, while in air an intermediate behavior is observed. These data suggest that highly efficient devices can be developed by balancing the quantity of surface hydroxyl groups of NiO, and presumably of other p-type metal oxide semiconductors.
Dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical (DSPEC) water splitting is an attractive approach to convert and store solar energy into chemical bonds. However, the solar conversion efficiency of a DSPEC cell is typically low due to a poor performance of the photocathode. Here, we demonstrate that Cu-doping improves the performance of a functionalized NiO-based photocathode significantly. Femtosecond transient absorption experiments show longer-lived photoinduced charge separation for the Cu:NiO-based photocathode relative to the undoped analogue. We present a photophysical model that distinguishes between surface and bulk charge recombination, with the first process (∼10 ps) occurring more than 1 order of magnitude faster than the latter. The longer-lived photoinduced charge separation in the Cu:NiO-based photocathode likely originates from less dominant surface recombination and an increased probability for holes to escape into the bulk and to be transported to the electrical contact of the photocathode. Cu-doping of NiO shows promise to suppress detrimental surface charge recombination and to realize more efficient photocathodes.
Microbial rhodopsins constitute a key protein family in optobiotechnological applications such as optogenetics and voltage imaging. Spectral tuning of rhodopsins into the deep-red and near-infrared spectral regions is of great demand in such applications because more bathochromic light into the near-infrared range penetrates deeper in living tissue. Recently, retinal analogues have been successfully used in ion transporting and fluorescent rhodopsins to achieve red-shifted absorption, activity, and emission properties. Understanding their photochemical mechanism is essential for further design of appropriate retinal analogues but is yet only poorly understood for most retinal analogue pigments. Here, we report the photoreaction dynamics of red-shifted analogue pigments of the proton pump proteorhodopsin (PR) containing A2 (all-trans-3,4-dehydroretinal), MOA2 (all-trans-3-methoxy-3,4-dehydroretinal), or DMAR (all-trans-3-dimethylamino-16-nor-1,2,3,4-didehydroretinal), utilizing femto- to submillisecond transient absorption spectroscopy. We found that the A2 analogue photoisomerizes in 1.4, 3.0, and/or 13 ps upon 510 nm light illumination, which is comparable to the native retinal (A1) in PR. On the other hand, the deprotonation of the A2 pigment Schiff base was observed with a dominant time constant of 67 μs, which is significantly slower than the A1 pigment. In the MOA2 pigment, no isomerization or photoproduct formation was detected upon 520 nm excitation, implying that all the excited molecules returned to the initial ground state in 2.0 and 4.2 ps. The DMAR pigment showed very slow excited state dynamics similar to the previously studied MMAR pigment, but only very little photoproduct was formed. The low efficiency of the photoproduct formation likely is the reason why DMAR analogue pigments of PR showed very weak proton pumping activity.
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