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Genetic Engineering for Photosynthetic Proteins for Solar Energy

  • Project Leaders: J Thomas Beatty
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $380743
  • Program/Competition: Strategic Opportunities Fund
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2015
  • Status: Closed

Solar power is an abundant sustainable energy source: in a single hour, the sun irradiates enough energy to meet humanity’s needs for an entire year. However, solar energy is currently used to meet less than 1% of global energy needs. BC’s current approaches to the energy sector are focused largely on fuels and hydroelectricity, thus cost-effective and efficient photovoltaic technologies to harvest solar energy are a key component in achieving a secure mixture of energy sources for BC. This project proposed to use bacterial photosynthetic proteins as light-harvesting material for third generation photovoltaic applications in solar cells. They aims to demonstrate photosynthetic proteins as inexpensive, efficient and environmentally sustainable components of solar cells by re-engineering of photosynthetic light-harvesting and electron transfer pathways through site-directed mutagenesis. This work could potentially fill a gap by directly converting sunlight to electricity, using green components and without CO2 emission. The mining of genetic information from thermophiles for increased stability of a bio-photovoltaic device is unique.