Photosynthesis within porous silica gel: Viability and activity of encapsulated cyanobacteria

J.C. Rooke, A. Léonard, B.-L. Su, H. Sarmento, J.-P. Descy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the framework of designing novel bioreactors, the encapsulation of photosynthetic cyanobacterial strains of the genus Synechococcus, PCC 6301, PCC 7002 and Cyanothece PCC 7418, within mesoporous silica networks has been achieved via the acidification of aqueous colloidal silica precursors at ambient temperature. The effect of the silica matrix on the external membrane of the cells has been studied. The viability of the cells over a three month duration has been assessed using transmission electron microscopy, epifluorescence microscopy, UV-visible spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography. The bioactivity of the encapsulated cyanobacteria was detected via the assimilation of NaHCO. Although most cells entrapped within the silica gel remain undivided, some cells continued to divide even when there was limited space. TEM studies have revealed an interaction between the silica gel and the cell membrane. HPLC studies highlight that the photoactive pigments in PCC 6301 and PCC 7002 can be preserved for up to 12 weeks whilst PCC 7418 lost its photosynthetic pigments after two weeks post-immobilisation. These results suggest that certain strains of cyanobacteria are able to photosynthesise within a hybrid gel yielding the possibility of novel photobioreactors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2833-2841
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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