New ASU center to advance research in bioenergy, biomedicine

Date: 
Fri, 2014-08-01

Petra Fromme, an Arizona State University professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been appointed by President Michael M. Crow to lead a new Biodesign Institute initiative that will have a significant impact on the fields of bioenergy, enzyme catalysis and drug discovery, called the Center for Applied Structural Discovery.

“Petra Fromme’s research promises to crack nature’s code and replicate fundamental biological processes, such as photosynthesis, for profound societal benefits,” said Crow. “The establishment of this center reflects ASU’s evolution as a leading research university, and it underscores our commitment to innovation in the pursuit of solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems."

Spurring bioenergy and biomedical advances

Fromme has been a critical contributor to an ASU group that, for the past generation, has been one of the world’s leading photosynthesis groups in the world. And if scientists can successfully mimic photosynthesis – the way plants use sunlight energy to break apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen – they could help to usher in the hydrogen economy. But to date, no one has been able to unlock plants’ secrets to produce a clean, cheap and scalable renewable energy alternative.

“A crucial problem facing research groups around the world is discovering an efficient, inexpensive catalyst for oxidizing water to oxygen gas, hydrogen ions and electrons,” said ASU Regents’ Professor Devens Gust, who directs the Center for Bio-Inspired Fuel Production (BISfuel). “The research by Fromme and coworkers gives us, for the very first time, a look at how the catalyst changes its structure while it is working,” Gust added. “Once the mechanism of photosynthetic water oxidation is understood, chemists can begin to design artificial photosynthetic catalysts that will allow them to produce useful fuels using sunlight.”  Read more here

    

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