Nanoscale membranes that chemically isolate and electronically wire up the abiotic/biotic interface

Jose A. Cornejo, Hua Sheng, Eran Edri, Caroline M. Ajo-Franklin, Heinz Frei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


By electrochemically coupling microbial and abiotic catalysts, bioelectrochemical systems such as microbial electrolysis cells and microbial electrosynthesis systems synthesize energy-rich chemicals from energy-poor precursors with unmatched efficiency. However, to circumvent chemical incompatibilities between the microbial cells and inorganic materials that result in toxicity, corrosion, fouling, and efficiency-degrading cross-reactions between oxidation and reduction environments, bioelectrochemical systems physically separate the microbial and inorganic catalysts by macroscopic distances, thus introducing ohmic losses, rendering these systems impractical at scale. Here we electrochemically couple an inorganic catalyst, a SnO2 anode, with a microbial catalyst, Shewanella oneidensis, via a 2-nm-thick silica membrane containing -CN and -NO2 functionalized p-oligo(phenylene vinylene) molecular wires. This membrane enables electron flow at 0.51 μA cm-2 from microbial catalysts to the inorganic anode, while blocking small molecule transport. Thus the modular architecture avoids chemical incompatibilities without ohmic losses and introduces an immense design space for scale up of bioelectrochemical systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2263
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Nanoscale membranes that chemically isolate and electronically wire up the abiotic/biotic interface'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this