Research

A breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis

June 24, 2013
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

An artificial light-collecting antenna system. Binding a large number of light-absorbing molecules ("red balls") to a DNA molecule, which is then modified with a porphyrin unit (blue) will result in the creation of a self-assembling system that resembles light harvesting in natural photosynthesis.

An artificial light-collecting antenna system. Binding a large number of light-absorbing molecules (“red balls”) to a DNA molecule, which is then modified with a porphyrin unit (blue) will result in the creation of a self-assembling system that resembles light harvesting in natural photosynthesis.

Aresearch team at Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenburg,
 Sweden, has made a nanotechnological breakthrough in the first step required for artificial photosynthesis. The team has demonstrated that it is possible to use self-assembling DNA molecules as scaffolding to create artificial systems that collect light. The results were recently published in the esteemed scientific Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Scaffolding in plants and algae consists of a large number of proteins that organize chlorophyll molecules to ensure effective light collection. The system is complicated and would basically be impossible to construct artificially. “It’s all over if a bond breaks,” said Jonas Hannestad, PhD of physical chemistry at Chalmers. “If DNA is used instead to organize the light-collecting molecules, the same precision is not achieved but a dynamic self-constructing system arises.”

With a system that builds itself, the researchers have begun to approach nature’s method. If any of the light-collecting molecules break, it will be replaced with another one a second later. In this sense, it is a self-repairing system as opposed to if molecules had been put there by researchers with synthetic organic chemistry.

The sun’s light is moved to a reaction center in plants and algae so they can synthesize sugars and other energy-rich molecules. “We can move energy to a reaction center, but we have not resolved how the reactions themselves are to take place there,” said Bo Albinsson, professor of physical chemistry and head of the research team. “This is actually the most difficult part of artificial photosynthesis. We have demonstrated that an antenna can easily be built. We have recreated that part of the miracle.”

The Chalmers researchers are combining artificial photosynthesis with DNA nanotechnology. When constructing nano-objects that are billionths of a meter, DNA molecules have proven to function very well as building material. This is because DNA strands have the ability to attach to each other in a predictable manner. As long as the correct assembly instructions are given from the start, DNA strands in a test tube can bend around each other and basically form any structure.

“It’s like a puzzle where the pieces only fit together in one specific way,” said Albinsson. “That is why it is possible to draw a fairly complex structure on paper and then know basically what it will look like. We subsequently use those traits to control how light collection will take place.”

The research was funded by the Swedish Research Council. The research team recently received a new grant amounting to SEK 9 million ($1.33 million USD) from the Swedish Energy Agency.

Read More

More Like This…

HOME Algae Industry Jobs

Copyright ©2010-2013 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) released the following statement calling on the EPA to include Carbon Capture and Utilization strategies in rules proposed June 2, 20...
A new, outdoor system at the University of Dayton Research Institute has been producing a high volume of algae since its installation in the summer of 2013, even through ...
Four years after the first optimistic calculations, the experimental cultivation of algae at Wageningen University in the Netherlands appears to be meeting expectations. ...
Jamie Radford writes in the Illawarra Mercury that Pia Winberg, from the University of Wollongong, believes that the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia (NSW) is in...
Kyae Mone Win reports in the Myanmar Times that spirulina has been harvested from Twin Daung lake in Sagaing’s Bu Ta Lin township for over a decade, but climate change an...
A recent discovery in the multicellular green alga, Volvox carteri,has revealed the origin of male and female sexes, showing how they evolved from a more primitive mating...
Biofuels derived from the oils produced by algae may offer a low-cost sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. To achieve this goal, optimization of cost effective strate...
Perth, Western Australia-based Algae.Tec Limited has announced that the Reliance Group has converted the first tranche of options following the positive progress achieved...
Following a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was recently asked t...
Phys.Org reports that scientists Jolanda Verspagen and Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands have concluded that rising CO2 concentrations in the at...
Expanding from its initial work in algal biofuels, General Atomic’s (GA’s) Advanced Biological Processes team has focused on the rising need for food globally, specifical...
Oregon State University researchers are combining diatoms, a type of single-celled photosynthetic algae, with nanoparticles to create a sensor capable of detecting minisc...
Researchers at the Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) in Wädenswil, Switzerland, have succeeded in producing energy-rich gas from microalgae, and in doing so have demonstrated ...
SCHOTT AG, of Mitterteich, Germany, and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), based at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura, have signed an R&D agreement to strengthen their partnersh...
Analia Murias 
reports for fis.com that Chilean exports of products made from macroalgae generated a total of $195 million US in the first seven months of 2014, according...
With their new CO₂ processing-platform called AstaCos, AlgaeBiotech can produce waxy particles of only 50-100 µm in size with a loading of 25% astaxanthin oleoresin. The ...
Algix, parent company of Solaplast, will be inaugurating their algae-to-plastic facility in Meridian, Mississippi, on November 14, 2014. Solaplast's facility will be focu...
Solazyme, Inc. and Versalis, the chemical subsidiary of Eni S.p.A., one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, today announced a partnership to expand the commerci...