Interdisciplinary team awarded grant to research bioenergy conversion
Cornell researchers received a $2 million grant to study the combination of inorganic semiconductor nanoparticles and bacterial cells for more efficient bioenergy conversion.
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded an interdisciplinary team of Cornell researchers $2 million to study the combination of inorganic semiconductor nanoparticles and bacterial cells for more efficient bioenergy conversion.
The team will be led by Peng Chen, the Peter J.W. Debye Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, who is collaborating with Tobias Hanrath, professor at the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Buz Barstow, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Cornell project was one of six selected by the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research to explore microscopic imaging of plants and microbes as a way to advance bioenergy research.
The Cornell team is focusing on inorganic semiconductor nanoparticles called quantum dots, which have strong light-absorbing properties, and merging them with bacteria cells that can perform complicated chemical transformations precisely and efficiently. The resulting hybrid system will be able to harvest sunlight and utilize carbon dioxide that is abundant in the atmosphere to produce both high-value chemicals like plastic precursors and commodities like the infrastructure-compatible biofuel butanol and the bio-plastic polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB).
Bacteria laying on a thin layer of quantum dots are probed with a laser. Courtesy: Cornell University[/caption]
“This research explores the intriguing prospect of influencing the complex biomachinery inside bacterial cells through interactions with external quantum dots,” Hanrath said. “Improved understanding of, and ultimately control over, how cells and quantum dots interact has important broader implications beyond the specific model system investigated in this project.”
Original content can be found at Control Engineering.