Dyeing Non-Recyclable Polyethylene Plastic with Photoacid Phycocyanobilin from Spirulina Algae: Ultrafast Photoluminescence Studies

Maryam Alhefeiti, Falguni Chandra, Ravindra Kumar Gupta, Na’il Saleh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the enormous environmental damage caused by plastic waste, it makes up over one-third of globally produced plastics. Polyethylene (PE) wastes have low recycling but high production rates. Towards the construction of ionic solar cells from PE, the present work describes the loading of a bioactive photoacid phycocyanobilin (PCB) dye from the pigment of Spirulina blue–green algae (as a natural resource) on low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic film. Dyeing was confirmed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Upon excitation of the Soret-band (400 nm), the photoluminescence (PL) spectra of PCB in neat solvents revealed two prominent emission peaks at 450–550 and 600–700 nm. The first band assigned to bilirubin-like (PCBBR) species predominated the spectral profile in the highly rigid solvent glycerol and upon loading 0.45 % (w/w) of the dye on plastic. The photoluminescence excitation (PLE) spectra of PCB for the second region (Q-band) at 672 nm in the same solvents confirmed the ground state heterogenicity previously associated with the presence of PCBA (neutral), PCBB (cationic), and PCBC (anionic) conformers. Time-resolved photoluminescence (TRPL) measurements induced via excitation of all PCB species at 510 nm in methanol revealed three-lifetime components with τ1 = ~0.1 ns and τ2 = ~2 ns associated with PCBBR species and τ3 = ~5 ns pertinent to the long-living photoproduct X*. Decay-associated spectra (DAS) analysis of the photoluminescence transient spectra of the final dyed films in the solid-state confirmed the improved generation of the long-living photoproduct as manifested in a significant increase in the PL intensity (~100-fold) and lifetime value (~90 ns) in the Q-region upon loading 6.92 % (w/w) of the dye on plastic. The photoproduct species were presumably assigned to the deprotonated PCB species, suggesting improved ionic mobility. The potential implementation of the PCB-sensitized PE solid wastes for the fabrication of ionic solar cells is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4811
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • ionic transport
  • low-density polyethylene
  • phycocyanobilin
  • time-resolved fluorescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics


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