Professor Richard Cogdell

My group is using Synthetic Biology to try to make systems capable of artificial photosynthesis. We use both artificial photosynthesis purple photosynthetic bacteria and cyanobacteria as chasses. The cyanobacteria that produce heterocysts are being used as anaerobic reaction chambers for ‘fuel’ synthesis powered by solar energy. In this work we capitalise on our experience in the biophysics of photosynthesis (especially on the early light-energy conversion reactions) and the structural biology of membrane proteins.

Current project:
Development of a biohybrid solar cell.

Funded by University of Glasgow under its Solar Fuels project.

This project involves using reaction centres prepared from the green sulphur photosynthetic bacterium Chlorobium tepidum coupled to an electrode on one side and to an enzyme such as hydrogenase or formate dehydrogenase on the other side. As a first step we have been trying to enhance the light absorption of the reaction centres by making use of the Plasmon effect. Reaction centres have been assembled onto silver nanowires and when a spacer of the correct thickness is placed between the two, a strong Plasmon enhancement of both fluorescence and absorption can be seen. The diagram below illustrates this. This part of the project is a joint enterprise between the Cogdell group in Glasgow and Sebastian Mackowski’s group in Torun, Poland.