The Artificial Photosynthesis research effort at ANU involves the collaborative efforts of four ARC funded research groups and 25 staff.
The group’s research areas include the mechanism of water-splitting, the fundamental processes and efficiencies of biological photo-energy conversion and the design and properties of biomimetic molecular assemblies.
A key aim of the ECI artificial photosynthesis consortium is to develop a range of effective biomimetic catalyst systems, particularly those to catalyse the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen under benign conditions and to construct a corresponding prototype reactor.
The team have recently made a number of breakthroughs. Dr Ron Pace and his team successfully replicated one of the crucial steps in photosynthesis, opening the way for biological systems powered by sunlight which could manufacture hydrogen as a fuel.
The team created a protein which, when exposed to light, displays the electrical heartbeat that is the key to photosynthesis. This process sheds light into the way that plants produce hydrogen by splitting water which until now has been poorly understood. The system uses a naturally-occurring protein and does not need batteries or expensive metals, meaning it could be affordable in many countries.
The ECI research group has also recently made two major discoveries regarding fundamental charge separation and the oxygen evolving system in photosynthesis, published in high profile journals and presented at major conferences with much interest. In addition, the group has won a $400,000 ARC grant to work on the relevance of the low energy charge transfer state in photosystem II to artificial photosynthesis. It is expected that the outcomes and the techniques developed in this project will be applicable to the design of solar energy devices. This project is co-led by Professor Elmars Krausz.
The groups at ANU collaborate extensively with leading European, Japanese and United States groups and also have linkages with Industrial Physics CSIRO.