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Welcome at the homepage of the biophysics of photosynthesis research section. We are an interdisciplinary research group investigating photosynthesis: the fundamental process on Earth powering all lifeforms. It is hard to overestimate the importance of photosynthesis for humankind as it is responsible for plant growth, carbon capture, solar fuels and oxygen production to name a few. Because the process is triggered by light, the machinery is also paradigm in (bio-)molecular light-interaction. We are studying the process at a fundamental level but always have applications in view. We believe photosynthesis research can contribute to solutions for a sustainable society by delivering templates for solar energy utilization, improving plant growth and preserving ecosystems.

Research profile

The group aims to understand the molecular bases of photosynthesis.  We extract the building principles of the light to energy conversion machinery in order to improve efficiency and to design artificial systems. We analyse the photosynthetic apparatus at different levels of complexity from single molecule to the whole organism, which can be a bacterial photosynthetic cell or a plant. The effort in photosynthesis is complemented by research into the conversion of light into a biological signal by photoreceptors  We exploit a large number of techniques varying from light spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and genetics. Furthermore, advanced computer modeling of experimental data is applied. The main research lines of the group are detailed below.

Research topics

Light harvesting and its regulation

Plants need sunlight, but too much will actually harm them. Within each cell, there is an entire regulation machinery in place, as complicated as the process itself, to dispose of excess light energy.

The main aim of this research line is to understand light harvesting and its regulation at the molecular level in the context of functional units. We explore strategies to improve photosynthetic efficiency with the final aim of improving crop productivity.

Signal Transduction

Light is not only used for its energy, it also serves for light sensing in biology.

We study the mechanisms of light-reception, with advanced time-resolved spectroscopic techniques such as transient UV-vis absorption, time-resolved IR and 2DIR, stimulated Raman and multi-pulse spectroscopy. We aim for a detailed, dynamic-structural basis of signal transduction of photoreceptors to aid the development of bio-based switches and sensors, to be used in cell biology, neuroscience and tissue imaging.

Biosolar cells

The light energy capturing machinery of photosynthesis can also be applied directly into devices. While the efficiency of the individual parts of the process are limited within the cell by all other interacting parts, when isolated they maintain a high efficiency as building blocks for energy harvesting and catalyses. Combining the nanometer sized machinery with nanostructured materials we seek applications for biosensors and biophotovoltaics.

Systems biophysics

The aim of Systems biophysics is to develop models that describe complex photosynthetic systems. Such models are based upon measured time-resolved absorption and emission spectra, which are two dimensional data sets. Theoretical methods and software have been developed to identify the model, and estimate the biophysical parameters that describe all data. These methods are termed global and target analysis. Key ingredients are compartmental, spectral and thermodynamic models.

Serial crystallography and structural biology

Photosensitive proteins experience structural changes upon environmental stress. Serial crystallography is applied to unravel the molecular dynamics during protein activation: instead of taking a static image of a protein, it collects snapshots of the protein during structural changes, therefore creating a movie of the protein movement.

Section members

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