Harnessing Sunlight for Sustainable Chemistry

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

In moving to a sustainable future much inspiration stems from the near limitless supply of energy provided to Earth by the sun. Photovoltaics harnessing this energy as electricity are well-established. Equally promising are solar-technologies for chemical transformations. This project aims to develop reaction capsules able to harness visible-light to drive reductive chemical transformations in their internal volumes. Three catalytic transformations will be targeted:
a) reduction of Au(III) to form gold nanoparticles with application as transistors and in medical devices
b) reduction of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide to nitrogen by the enzyme nitrous oxide reductase
c) production of H2, a fuel and chemical feedstock, by proton reduction at Pt nanoparticles.
Porin:cytochrome complexes spanning the wall of the reaction capsule will collect reducing electrons from external light-harvesting systems and deliver those electrons to the internalised catalyst systems.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1800040 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 Samuel Piper
 
Description I have been developing a network of proteins that will allow electrons, derived from sunlight, to cross a lipid membrane and be used to power a useful chemical reaction.
Using multiheme cytochromes from Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and enzymes that can reduce nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, to nitrogen I will soon be able to drive this reaction using the energy of light.
Key findings:
Photosensitiser-labelled heme proteins can be fully reduced by exposure to light and a sacrificial electron donor
Photosensitiser-labelled heme proteins can be reconstituted into a protein complex, forming a membrane spanning electron wire,
electron transfers from this reconstituted complex to nitrous oxide reductase have been studied in isolation.
Exploitation Route The system being developed is a proof-of-principle based on the simplest system we could envisage, however once the system is operational the procedure could be adapted to power a host of different reactions, from fuel production to chemical synthesis
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description Bioelectrochemical society conference BES2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact BES 2017 was held in Lyon, France and featured an international panel of speakers discussing many aspects of bioelctrochemistry. There was also a poster session at which i presented a poster and won a poster prize.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bioelectrochemical-soc.org/BES-meetings.php
 
Description Gordon Research Conference - Electron donor-acceptor interactions 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The EDAI GRC was held at Salve Regina University in Newport RI, USA. The conference featured many interesting talks from a variety of areas from very applied biology research to purely computational work. Poster sessions were also run at which I presented a poster.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.grc.org/electron-donor-acceptor-interactions-conference/2018/
 
Description Gordon Research Symposium - Electron donor-acceptor interactions 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The 2018 EDAI GRS took place before the GRC and featured talks and posters from early-career researchers, I gave a talk on my recent findings at this symposium. I got good feedback from my talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.grc.org/electron-donor-acceptor-interactions-grs-conference/2018/
 
Description Latitude festival outreach activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact At the invitation of Dr. Jenny Rand from SAW trust our group planned and delivered a set of activities at the kids area of Latitude Festival 2018. The activities were based around the bacteria we work with which can live in diverse environments as they do not require oxygen to respire. The activities were designed to teach about different types of energy and where our energy as humans comes from, what bacteria are, where they live and how we can extract clean electricity from soil using special bacteria. The participants also got to have a go at using the Oculus Rift virtual reality system to dive inside a metalloprotein and look for the important atoms of iron that allow the protein to conduct electricity.
I was involved in the planning meetings where the activities were developed and built one activity myself. This was a puzzle that was designed to teach about protein structure and that some proteins can conduct electricity if they are correctly built.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Norwich Science festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our research group delivered a series of outreach activities, based on those delivered at Latitude festival earlier in the year, at the Norwich Science festival on "Technology Day".
The activities were focused on 3 areas: Types of energy and where animals get their energy, Habitats, electric bacteria and how they take advantage of their environment. The individual activities varied from working out where different species might live to a virtual reality experience where the structure of a metalloprotein could be visualised in 3D.

The event ran all day in the centre of the Forum in the heart of Norwich and we were busy from opening to closing. As part of the event we produced a "lanyard card" with some highlights of what the audience would have learned for them to take away, I personally drafted the text that appeared on this card.

The event was a great success and many members of the pubic left with a new appreciation of the fascinating bacteria that are under their feet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018