Section of Chemistry : Dept. of Photo Chemistry & Molecular Science :
: Molecular Biomimetics : Swedish Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis
Uppsala universitet
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Molecular Biomimetics

Swedish Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis

Hydrogen from Solar Energy and Water: From natural to artificial photosynthesis. The Swedish Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis

The Consortium for Artificial Photo-synthesis carries out integrated, basic research on the common goal of hydrogen production from the renewable resources solar energy and water. The Consortium was started in 1994 and is a bottom-up initiative that brings together leading Swedish groups with broad multi-disciplinary expertise, spanning from molecular biology, biophysics and biochemistry to organometallic and physical chemistry. The vision is to develop novel routes for hydrogen production from solar energy and water.

In a unique effort the project integrates, in a long time effort, two front-line topics: artificial photosynthesis in man-made systems to make hydrogen from sun and water, and photobiological hydrogen production in living organisms. Hydrogen production on large scale by these methods is still distant, but has a vast potential and can, if successful, have large impact on future energy systems. The scientific risk is high - the research is very demanding. Thus, our objective is to explore, integrate and carry out the basic science necessary to develop these novel routes.

The Figure describes our project design. We follow two main lines to achieve hydrogen formation from solar energy and water. In the biological line we use molecular biology to develop and improve photosynthetic cyanobacteria for bio-reactors. We work mainly with Nostoc punctiforme, which has the ability to form hydrogen via the nitrogenase enzyme under nitrogen starving conditions. In Nostoc we use molcular biology to delete genes and insert more efficient foreign hydrogenase genes from other microorganisms. The target is to improve the original strain to perform better in a bio-reactor with respect to hydrogen formation and long-term stability.

In the artificial line we adopt a bio-mimetic approach where we are inspired by principles in natural enzymes (the Fe-Fe active site in di-iron hydrogenases-bottom left; the Mn4 cluster and tyrosine-Z in Photosystem II, bottom green dimer P) to synthesize Mn-; Ru-; and Fe catalysts for artificial hydrogen formation. The project is founded on two pillars, our deep biochemical and biophysical knowledge about the natural enzymes and our strong characterization of synthesized Mn, Ru-Mn and Fe-Fe compounds and of the natural enzymes. Our characterization techniques are state-of-the art time-resolved spectro-scopy of many kinds, electrochemistry, EPR and biochemical techniques. Detailed knowledge about the enzymes involved, provided by the biochemists, is crucial for the synthetic chemists. However, the biochemical projects are also directly aimed at developing knowledge for the molecular biologists to manage improve-ment of the hydrogen producing capability of the organisms. Thus, the biochemistry and the spectroscopical characterization constitute the glue and stable knowledge base in the large and complex science.

Between 1994 and 2004 the Consortium, was spread over three universities in Sweden (Lund, Stockholm, Uppsala) separated by over 600 km. However, our science is complex, involving several divergent fields and almost every publication involves many researchers from two or more groups. Now (2005-2006) we bring the collaboration in the Consortium a big leap forward to create a new scientific environment in the same corridors at the same place, the Ångström laboratory at Uppsala University. Our science at the Max laboratory and the TW X-ray laser in Lund will remain there but all other groups will move to the new laboratory.

The new house grows rapidly and we will move in summer 2006 länka här till ÅNgströmbilderna . It is exactly designed to host the type of interactive research we perform in the Consortium and will be a landmark event in our scientific field.