Biomimetic solar-driven fuel production
Development of new technologies for CO2-neutral production of non-fossil fuels represents a prime scientific challenge of global importance. In nature, oxygenic photosynthesis facilitates the use of solar energy for formation of energy-rich carbohydrates using merely water and CO2 as raw materials. Key steps are catalyzed by earth-abundant metals at the catalytic site of specialized proteins. Insight in the ingenious bio-catalytic processes in plants, algae and cyanobacteria can promote the development of new technological systems for the light-driven production of non-fossil fuels (solar fuels). They serve as as an inspiration or even blueprint for artificial systems (biomimetic approach, artificial photosynthesis).
In the worldwide strive towards new systems for sustainable production of non-fossil fuels, we contribute by both, biophysical investigations on key metalloproteins and by research on new (biomimetic) catalysts for inorganic systems.
Renewable energy for CO2-neutral fuels (power-to-X, solar fuels, artificial photosynthesis)
— New (inorganic) catalyst materials
We develop and analyze catalysts based on earth-abundant metals, aiming at a thorough understanding of the physical-chemical properties of the new catalyst materials that are decisive for optimal function. One focal point are catalyst-coated electrodes for electrochemical water splitting. We track changes in atomic structure during operation of the catalyst by means of novel "in situ" or "operando" experiments using advanced physical methods. These include X-ray absorption spectroscopy with synchrotron radiation, visible light and Raman spectroscopy. This research area offers exciting possibilities for insights and discoveries, which could support new applications in energy conversion and storage.
National and international networks
Inorganic, biomimetic and biotechnological approaches are explored in the framework of the UniSysCat cluster of excellence in collaboration with research groups of three Berlin universities (TU, HU, FU) and other research institutions in Berlin. Our research in this area also is supported by the German ministry for science and education (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF). International collaborations involve, inter alia, the Swedish Consortium of Artificial Photosynthesis (centered at Uppsalla University, Dept. of Molecular Biomimetics).