Under the ever-present solar radiation, photosynthetic organisms on Earth evolved structurally-sophisticated photosynthetic systems. However, little attention has been paid to the inherent impact of sunlight illumination on the inorganic minerals widespread on the Earth surface. We discovered for the first time the solar energy conversion system of the “mineral coatings” on the Earth's surface (
aka “mineral membrane”), which exerts potential oxygen-production and carbon-sequestration functions on the Earth surface. Our finding shed a light on the photoelectric effect and non-classical photosynthesis involving natural semiconducting minerals. In this contribution, we studied the semiconducting property and photoelectron energy of typical minerals in the “mineral membrane”, focusing primarily on the photoelectric effect in and oxygen-production/carbon-sequestration function of ferromanganese oxides, as well as relevant geological records. We propose that birnessite, goethite and hematite, the semiconducting minerals commonly found in the “mineral membrane”, can perform sensitive and stable photon-to-electron conversion under solar radiation. The non-classical mineral photosynthetic function we put forth is as follows: Solar energy utilization by inorganic minerals resembles photosynthesis in regarding to oxygen evolution and carbon fixing, and the “mineral membrane” may take part in both photocatalytic water-oxidation reaction and transformation of atmospheric CO
2 into marine carbonate. In addition, minerals might as well have promoted photosynthesis in photosynthetic organisms. During the water-oxidation reaction, the inorganic cluster Mn
5 of photosystem II cycles through redox intermediates that are analogous to birnessite both in structure and component. Thus, it is fair to postulate that birnessites could play a role in the initiation of the photosynthesis in cyanobacteria, as minerals could weaken the hydrogen bond strength and alter water properties, thus facilitating water oxidation and photosynthesis. This observation offers further insights into the molecular mechanism of mineral participation in photosynthesis in photosynthetic organisms.