Principle Contact

Ian Watson

Energy at University of Glasgow has a illustrious history with luminaries such as Lord Kelvin, James Watt, W.J.M. Rankine and Joseph Black preceding us. Within the synthetic biology and industrial biotech cluster, we focus on bioenergy research.

Photosynthesis is biology's way of capturing and storing energy; we study the chemical processes underlying this and how we can exploit and optimise these. Specifically we work to understand the full molecular details of the energy transfer reactions that take place during light harvesting and devising new ways of using solar energy to produce fuels. Phototrophs convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into chemical energy, but photosynthesis evolved to optimize biological fitness rather than human fuel production. Under excess light, Ribulose 1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase (RuBisCO), the enzyme catalyzing the rate limiting step in CO2 fixation, becomes saturated. Its metabolic pathway, the Calvin Cycle is down-regulated and most of the light energy absorbed is lost as heat. Richard Cogdell and Lee Cronin have founded the Glasgow Solar Fuels Initiative. (

Ian Watson is working on using microalgae, which are tiny photosynthetically capable organisms, for a raft of applications including waste remediation, food, high value chemical factories and energy production (biofuels and/or biomass). All of these are being explored at University of Glasgow where we use synthetic biology tools to optimise algae for growth and chemical production. We have developed novel bioreactors to enable growth at scale along with harvesting technology for separation/dewatering leading to production of biomass for multiple uses.  Ian is also working on gasification and in particular, controlling biomass gasification processes to reduce tar formation and provide more efficient end use of syngas.  This work overall naturally leads to varied feedstock opportunities and production of biorefineries for high value chemical production, carbon capture and utilisation and production of biofuel, heat and electricity. 

Manosh Paul leads the CombGEN (Combustion & Gasification Engineering) research networking project CombGEN (Combustion & Gasification Engineering) research networking project and with interest in computational fluid dynamics, develops models for combustion and gasification processes.