Frontiers in Energy Research Newsletter – Article written by BioLEC Postdoc Hannah Sayre

Hannah Sayre, a BioLEC Postdoctoral Researcher in the Scholes Lab at Princeton University, wrote an article in the Fall 2018 Frontiers in Energy Research Newsletter. Her article details gas capture work being done at UNCAGE -ME, the Center for Understanding and Control of Acid Gas-induced Evolution of Materials for Energy. Read More

“Synthesis of the cobalt metal-organic framework. The thin sheets crystallize and fall to the bottom.” Image: Alex Elder

Frontiers in Energy Research – “Mother Nature Does It Better”

The Fall 2018 issue of Frontiers in Energy Research features BioLEC in the article “Mother Nature Does It Better: The advantages and challenges of incorporating biology into the science of energy”.

To implement the current understanding of biological systems into new energy-harvesting devices, researchers at the recently established BioLEC are launching new projects to put pieces from synthetic chemistry, device fabrication, characterization, and biology together to invent new ways of cultivating energy with inspiration from photosynthesis.

Scientists observe the reaction mechanisms in place for photosynthesis and try to implement them into new designs. During photosynthesis, photons’ energy is used to induce chemical reactions. To facilitate these reactions, plants use complex structures that act as photoredox catalysts. Photoredox catalysts use energy from light photons to perform an oxidation-reduction reaction, where electron transfers between chemical species to produce new products. Human-made photoredox systems are limited to one photon reaction with low absorption cross-section, causing low turnover of these systems.

However, plants solved this problem by creating large chemical “antennas” to absorb light and funnel the light into the catalytic site, so all the needed energy arrives at a fast pace to these sites. The chemistry that is common in photosynthesis of plants is still not possible to do in a lab environment, because there is not enough detailed understanding of these mechanisms at the molecular level. Therefore, scientists at BioLEC are focusing their effort to design, fabricate, and characterize systems with higher absorption cross-sections and multi-photon excitation capabilities.

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“Sugar, Light, And A New Type of Chemistry — What It May Take To Wean Us Off Fossil Fuels”

Dan Robitzki of Futurism reports, “A team of prominent scientists has banded together to answer scientific questions about energy and the environment that are currently impossible to solve. If the team succeeds, it will have discovered a way to power the world with plants and industrial waste, breaking us of our addiction to polluting fossil fuels. And it will have created an entirely new branch of science in the process. That field of science is called Bioinspired Light-Escalated Chemistry (BioLEC). Its goal: figure out how to use the energy of two photons, the tiniest quantifiable units of light, to power chemical reactions.” Read more of Futurism’s report here.