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Cara E. Lubner received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the Pennsylvania State University, where she worked in the lab of Dr. John Golbeck to create a solar hydrogen-producing bionanodevice. This technology altered the electron transfer pathway of photosynthesis by chemically wiring its redox cofactors (iron-sulfur clusters) to a hydrogenase enzyme. Light-driven hydrogen was produced at high rates and with an electron throughput that exceeds natural photosynthesis. Due to the ubiquity of iron-sulfur clusters as redox cofactors in enzymatic systems, this wiring technology can be adapted for the light-driven generation of a variety of fuels.

At NREL, Lubner's current research focuses on understanding how electron and proton transfer are modulated by the protein environment and coordination of iron-sulfur clusters in [FeFe]-hydrogenases. She is also involved in the development of ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy for probing excited flavin species and their role in electron transfer and bifurcation. Elucidating the mechanism of electron transfer in these complex systems has implications for developing enzymes and microbes that perform desirable chemistries.

Research Interests

  • Solar hydrogen production

  • Mechanistic chemistry of enzyme catalytic sites

  • Electron transfer reactions

  • Redox proteins

  • Cyanobacteria and algae

  • Photosynthesis

Areas of Expertise

  • Biophysics

  • Photosynthesis

  • Redox biochemistry

  • Metalloproteins

  • Spectroscopy


  • Ph.D., Chemistry, The Pennsylvania State University, 2011

  • B.S., Chemistry, University of Florida, 2004

Professional Experience

  • Scientist III, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Biosciences Center, 2014–present

  • Research Associate, University of Colorado – Boulder, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, 2014

Featured Publications

  1. "Chapter 11: Re-routing redox chains for directed photocatalysis," in Biohydrogen (2015)

  2. "Quantum yield measurements of light-induced H2 generation in a Photosystem I-[FeFe]-H2ase nanoconstruct," Photosynthesis Research (2014)

  3. "Two-dimensional Protein Crystals for Solar Energy Conversion," Advanced Materials (2014)

  4. "Solar hydrogen-producing bionanodevice outperforms natural photosynthesis," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011)

  5. "Wiring photosystem I for electron transfer to a tethered redox dye," Energy and Environmental Science (2011)