Photosynthesis is the fundamental biological process by which solar energy is converted into fuel in four basic steps: light harvesting, charge separation, water splitting and fuel generation. At the heart of Photosynthesis, the reaction center pigment-protein complexes perform charge separation with near unity quantum efficiency despite their highly disordered energy landscape; they realise the first solar-energy conversion step in Photosynthesis by transforming sunlight to electrochemical energy.
To achieve this amazing feat, the reaction centers exploit The Quantum Design Principles of Photosynthesis1, complementary and interrelated solutions to ensure ultrafast and irreversible transfer of energy and electrons within a fluctuating environment. These Principles, where quantum coherence plays a crucial role, provide a guide for the rational design and construction of systems able to transfer energy and electrons with high efficiency and in the right direction. During my seminar I will present a conceptual view of these Principles and focus on how we are putting all this knowledge into action to Design and Construct Bio-Inspired Chromophore-Protein Assemblies with the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable and cost-effective solar-energy conversion to fuel.
- Romero, E., Novoderezhkin, V. I. & van Grondelle, R. Quantum design of photosynthesis for bio-inspired solar-energy conversion. Nature 543, 355-365 (2017).
Elisabet Romero is a Group Leader at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) in Tarragona, Spain. Taking inspiration from Photosynthesis, for which she demonstrated that quantum coherence plays a crucial role to determine the high efficiency of solar-energy conversion, she aims to develop a new generation of bio-inspired systems able to convert solar energy to fuels. Her group’s objective is to design and construct chromophore-protein assemblies based on abundant and biodegradable materials with the capacity to absorb, transfer and convert sunlight into electrochemical energy with high efficiency, that once incorporated into devices will provide a renewable, safe and inexpensive energy solution towards a sustainable future. To achieve these ambitus goals, she counts with a motivated and talented research team, ultrafast laser spectroscopy as main tool, and with financial support from the ICIQ’s Starting Career Programme, funded by the “Severo Ochoa” grant, along with a European Research Council Starting Grant.