Remie Yu is an undergraduate student at Rutgers and an intern with the Rutgers Energy Institute for the summer of 2010, working with Professor Robert A. Niederman of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.
Q. Please briefly describe your research.
A. I have been working with Professors Niederman and Vitadello, studying the development of modified photosystems that are able to efficiently convert solar energy into usable forms. We are studying the bacterium Rhodospirillum rubrum, focusing on modifying the photosynthetic membrane, interfacing it with solid conducting supports that would allow efficient harvesting of solar energy. The chromophores, which are located in light-harvesting complexes of the bacteria, can be excited with light, which then transfers energy towards the photochemical reaction center. Electrons produced in the resulting transmembrane charge separation will be tunneled toward the electrode, which will produce light-induced currents. These studies will assist in modeling a similar system that would be incorporated into a lipid bilayer attached to a metal surface, which will improve conversion efficiencies.
Q. How did you come to be involved in this research?
A. I became involved with this research after taking a Byrne Seminar taught by Professor Niederman in the spring. The course, titled, The Future is Solar: Harnessing Sunlight to Meet Worldwide Energy Demands, discussed various forms of alternative energy, including biofuels and hydrogen power. One part of the course focused on the professor’s personal research and his endeavor to harness the solar energy photosynthetic bacteria get through photosynthesis at a larger scale. Intrigued by his presentation, I asked the professor if I could get involved in his research, and he offered me a position in his lab.
Q. Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future?
A. Studying the photosynthetic processes of these bacteria will allow us to understand the functioning of the light-harvesting and reaction center complexes, which we can modify to make solar energy conversion more resourceful. From this, we can design bio-inspired supramolecular assemblies that will advance energy conversion efficiencies. The development of these photoelectric devices based on natural systems will provide a clean and sustainable energy source to meet worldwide energy demands.