Genetically encoded photoelectric silk that can convert photons to electrons (light to electricity) over a wide visible range in a self-power mode is reported. As silk is a versatile host material with electrical conductivity, biocompatibility, and processability, a photoelectric protein is genetically fused with silk by silkworm transgenesis. Specifically, mKate2, which is conventionally known as a far-red fluorescent protein, is used as a photoelectric protein. Characterization of the electrochemical and optical properties of mKate2 silk allows designing a photoelectric measurement system. A series of in situ photocurrent experiments support the sensitive and stable performance of photoelectric conversion. In addition, as a plasmonic nanomaterial with a broad spectral resonance, titanium nitride (TiN) nanoparticles are biologically hybridized into the silk glands, taking full advantage of the silkworms’ open circulatory system as well as the absorption band of mKate2 silk. This biological hybridization via direct feeding of TiN nanoparticles further enhances the overall photoelectric conversion ability of mKate2 silk. It is envisioned that the biologically derived photoelectric protein, its ecofriendly scalable production by transgenic silkworms, and the bioassisted plasmonic hybridization can potentially broaden the biomaterial choices for developing next-generation biosensing, retina prosthesis, and neurostimulation applications.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)