Bio-inspired Photosynthetic Materials for Solar Energy Harvesting
The demand for sustainable, renewable sources of energy in the 21st century is one of the most important societal and scientific challenges faced by humanity. Of the various renewable energy sources available, solar energy is by far the largest and is one which is most effectively utilised in Nature via the processes of photosynthesis. Photosynthetic organisms capture solar energy using arrays of Light Harvesting (LH) proteins assembled within cell membranes. These organisms - particularly those that reside in light-challenged environments - are faced with a formidable energy problem: How to capture sufficient energy to drive their cellular metabolism? This energy conundrum is elegantly addressed by stacking two-dimensional arrays of LH proteins within multiple thylakoid membranes housed in chloroplasts. An exquisite example of self-assembly, the 3D protein ordering found in these photosynthetic organisms therefore provides the fundamental design principles to develop artificial photosynthetic materials.
This research programme seeks to design and construct a new generation of DNA-programmed light-harvesting assemblies for the future applications in energy harvesting surfaces and advanced photovoltaic devices that fuse biomolecular, electrical and material components. To do so we will use DNA-Origami to direct the placement of light harvesting proteins with nano-scale precision onto engineered surfaces. This bio-inspired platform methodology merges the principles of "bottom up" DNA nanotechnology with "top down" nanolithography and would provide the means to control, for the first time, the location of each photosynthetic protein module, inter-module distance and their relative orientation in both 2D and 3D along surfaces. This new design lexicon will provide a framework to correlate how these parameters influence overall light harvesting efficiency for the production of a new class of bio-enabled solar energy harvesting surfaces and materials.
The student will work within an established research team to investigate all aspects of the system, from design of the DNA-origami, to the capture of the proteins, to the subsequent construction of novel light-harvesting materials. This multidisciplinary project represents an excellent opportunity for a student with a background in either bio-engineering, physics, chemistry or biology to work at the forefront of nanotechnology research.
To apply, please contact Dr. Clark:
Building optical metasurfaces using DNA-origami
Engineered metal nanostructures bridge the gap between far-field optical radiation and near-field quantum phenomena, enabling the manipulation of light below the diffraction limit. Recent advances in the production of these nanostructures has led to a new generation of photonic components known as metamaterials, which exhibit previously unattainable, non-natural optical properties. Key to the further development of metamaterial research and its use in real-world scenarios are new, scalable strategies for large-area fabrication of nano-structured optical systems. Using DNA-directed self-assembly to achieve this could unlock a new level of fabrication complexity, with resolution, alignment, speed and scalability attributes that outstrip traditional techniques, providing a route between the current state-of-the-art and the next-generation of optical devices.
This PhD project will investigate the use of DNA-origami to form complex arrangements of optical nanoparticles on surfaces for the first time. Acting as ultra-high-resolution, programmable scaffolds for nanoparticle attachment, the DNA-origami will self-assemble into well-defined, pre-engineered networks covering large surface areas. The student will investigate all aspects of the system, from design of the DNA-origami to the subsequent construction of novel nano-optical devices.
The student will form part of a vibrant multidisciplinary team spanning nano-optics, DNA-engineering, advanced micro/nano lithography, and synthetic biology. Using a variety of cutting-edge tools housed within Glasgow’s world-leading James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC), the student will have the opportunity to develop the aforementioned technology and explore its use as a new biological toolset for materials engineering and optics. As such, this multidisciplinary project represents an excellent opportunity for a student with a background in either engineering, physics, chemistry or biology to work at the forefront of nanotechnology research.
To apply, please contact Dr. Clark: