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Algae for Green Economy – From solar-to-fuel devices to bioremediation (presentation in English)

It is common knowledge that the environment is changing drastically due to the human-made pollution. The main reason behind this problem is the dependence of the humankind on fossil fuels as the source of energy. Besides their adverse effect on the climate and environment, easily recoverable fossil fuels are also limited since they are predicted to be exhausted by the end of this century. Nowadays, the only viable solution to mitigate the climate change and looming energy crisis is to switch to green energy and green chemistry using a circular economy model.

One of the major challenges of this century is to implement on a large-scale green and environmentally friendly solar-to-fuel installations providing a much-needed stimulus for a switch from a linear to circular economy. Such installations will encompass the robust and highly efficient photoactive devices using the Nature’s design for solar conversion into not only electricity but also to renewable chemicals and fuels.

Our research in the Solar Fuels Laboratory, Centre of New Technologies, University of Warsaw is largely focused on the challenge to change the paradigm of electricity and chemical production by using the power of the Sun to drive the production of green chemicals and fuels using water as the source of electrons and protons. To this end, we interface the highly robust photosynthetic proteins, originated from extremophilic (volcanic) microalgae, which can efficiently harvest solar energy upon their immobilization on various types of smart materials including semiconductors and graphene, for production of green electricity and fuels.

Another great challenge for the present-day humankind is to design efficient, biocompatible and environmentally friendly bioremediation systems capable of decontamination of the polluted groundwater and contaminated soil. Research and development of such systems would allow to detoxify contaminants in the soil and water. To this end, plants, microalgae and bacteria or the enzymes derived from these organisms carry a great biotechnological potential for bioremediation.

In our lab, in line with the latter environmental challenge, we investigate microalgal extremophiles from the Cyanidiales family that originated from hot volcanic springs rich in heavy metals and sulphur. In fact, due to the remarkable robustness of these algae it is possible to grow and study them at very harsh conditions such as in high heavy metal or high salt concentration. Understanding the detoxification pathways of these algae in the presence of harmful or unwanted compounds could lead to a technological breakthrough in the treatment of essential natural resources polluted by such contaminants.

We now cordially invite you onto a journey to learn more about the research and technologies that we develop at the Solar Fuels Lab at CeNT UW.

PhD candidates:

Francesca Marchetto and Miriam Izzo

Solar Fuels Laboratory

Head: Professor Joanna Kargul

Centre of New Technology, University of Warsaw

Prowadzący: Francesca Marchetto and Miriam Izzo

Dziedzina: BiologiaChemia

Kategoria wiekowa: Od 12 lat