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.
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.
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.
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.
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