The Photobiology Group's research goal is to enable transformative technology developments in photobiological systems for producing hydrogen and hydrocarbon-based chemicals and liquid biofuels. Photobiological systems in algae and cyanobacteria are promising on their own as a basis for advanced biofuels production technologies and also as a model from which to understand and develop biohybrid and biomimetic systems.
The scope of our research extends from light harvesting, charge separation, and splitting water, to the generation, conversion, and regulation of electron, hydrogen, and carbon fluxes in pathways leading to hydrogen and hydrocarbons. The Photobiology Group is also investigating fermentative and electrohydrogenic pathways for hydrogen production.
A major focus of our research is on hydrogenases, the enzymes that reduce protons to hydrogen using photosynthetically produced electrons. Although these enzymes are very efficient catalysts, their practical use is limited by oxygen sensitivity and reactions that compete for photosynthetic electrons. Our group is working on strategies to overcome these limitations.
A secondary focus is understanding the interactions between biological and biological/inorganic molecules and how these result in functional complexes that ultimately control the flow of energy and matter. An area of particular interest is how protein-protein interactions regulate the flux of reducing power between metabolic pathways for hydrogen and hydrocarbon production and competing metabolic pathways that do not produce the desired biofuel products.
Our group's unique or particularly distinguishing capabilities include:
- Hydrogenase enzymology, structure, function, and diversity
- Enzyme engineering, expression, and purification
- Functional integration of biological materials with nanomaterials
- Algal and cyanobacteria molecular biology, physiology, and genetics
- Metabolic engineering
For staff profiles, publications, and contact information, see the Biosciences staff page.