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10 december 2018

Approved FOM programme


Number 115.
Title Towards biosolar cells (TBSC)
Executive organisational unit BUW
Programme management Prof.dr. H.J.M. de Groot
Duration 2010 - 2018
Cost estimate M€ 7.0

Biosolar cells are natural or bio-inspired systems that convert solar energy into usable fuel, food or feedstock by photosynthesis. The focus of the TBSC programme is on artificial nanostructured solar to fuel converters, solar biofuel production with micro organisms, and on improving the photosynthetic efficiency of plants according to:

I. Research and development of nanostructured materials for the production of fuel from visible light (eventually solar light) using water as the raw material. This requires light-driven catalysts for water oxidation, proton reduction, and/or direct formation of carbon-based fuels like methanol. Critical issues include light-driven proton-electron management and multi-electron catalysis. Functional characterization and theoretical understanding are key elements. For high conversion efficiencies, materials will have to be shaped into nano­structures and interfaced with fast catalytic systems, and materials should be compatible with tandem or multi-junction devices for solar to fuel conversion.

II. Design, realization and valorization of optimized living photosynthetic objects, i.e. 'living catalysts' that convert CO2 from the atmosphere and excrete fuel directly in high yield, without biomass as an intermediate. Key issues include physical systems biology and engineering platforms to enhance the capacity of organisms to direct electron and energy flow to critical metabolic processes for solar fuel production, synthetic biology to insert new enzymatic pathways, down regulation of competing pathways genetically as well as physiologically, redesign of light harvesting antennae, and managing environmental constraints.

III. Research and development of plants for enhanced photosynthetic efficiency and improved CO2 uploading for the high yield and drought and light stress tolerant production of biomass for energy, food, feed, and feedstock. Target is unraveling the gene regulatory networks of selected photosynthesis processes for adapting crops and growth conditions to obtain higher photosynthetic efficiency, more biomass and better energy harvesting per hectare. A physical systems biology and phenotypic engineering approach to the model plant Arabidopdis thaliana will allow to define and to validate the key elements of the process in an unbiased approach.

Background, relevance and implementation
The sun is an abundant source of energy, and will play a major role in all future energy scenarios. In addition, changing diets, urbanization, economic growth and expanding populations are driving food and feed demand. Photosynthesis offers sustainable conversion of solar energy into fuel and production of biomass. Yet photosynthesis is a major limiting factor in this production, and often less than 1% of the solar energy is converted into these products. Due to recent progress in science and technology, photosynthesis can be improved and directed towards optimal utilization for sustainable energy supply in a biobased economy.

In the summer of 2010 an international scientific panel evaluated the proposals of the open call; ten projects were granted.

The final evaluation of the programme is foreseen in 2018. 

Please find a research highlight that was achieved in 2014 within this FOM programme here.