Photosynthetic Energy Transduction

NREL's photosynthetic energy transduction research explores how natural photosynthesis controls the interactions, assemblies, and reactivities of molecular components coordinating light-generated electron flow with electron utilization in reduction-oxidation reactions and pathways.

 An NREL researcher assembles a 3-electrode electrochemical microcell for measuring the energetic properties of a unique class of energy-conserving enzymes in the bioenergy lab at the Field Test Laboratory Building

Main Research Thrusts

Molecular Control of Light Capture and Electron Flux

We seek to define the compositions and structures of photosynthetic reaction centers and reaction center complexes to understand how these properties determine their function in light capture and electron flow and how function corresponds to electron utilization by available reduction-oxidation pathways.

Electron Transfer and Reduction-Oxidation Enzymes

We seek to understand the electron transfer and catalytic mechanisms of photosynthetic metalloenzymes and how their reactivities are coupled to electron transfer within biochemical pathways.


The Contribution of Proton-Donor pKa on Reactivity Profiles of [FeFe]-HydrogenasesFrontiers in Microbiology (2022)

Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 Requires the Bidirectional Hydrogenase To Metabolize Glucose and Arginine Under Oxic Conditions, Frontiers in Microbiology (2022)

The Influence of Electron Utilization Pathways on Photosystem I Photochemistry in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803RSC Advances (2022)

A Site-Differentiated [4Fe-4S] Cluster Controls Electron Transfer Reactivity of Clostridium acetobutylicum [FeFe]-Hydrogenase IChemical Science (2022)

The Structure and Reactivity of the HoxEFU Complex From the Cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, Journal of Biological Chemistry (2020)

Coupling Biology to Synthetic Nanomaterials for Semi-Artificial Photosynthesis, Photosynthesis Research (2020)

Tuning Catalytic Bias of Hydrogen Gas Producing Hydrogenases, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2020)

The Oxygen Reduction Reaction Catalyzed by Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 Flavodiiron Proteins, Sustainable Energy and Fuels (2019)

H-Cluster Assembly Intermediates Built on HydF by the Radical SAM Enzymes HydE and HydG, Journal of Biological Inorganic Chemistry (2019)

Research Staff

Zhanjun Guo (now a faculty at the Beijing Technical Institute)

Effie Kisgeropoulos

U.S. Department of Energy Support

This work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences, Solar Photochemistry Program.


Paul King

Principal Scientist, Manager of the Physical Biochemistry and Photosynthesis Group