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NSF announces new awards that will investigate more efficient ways to harvest sunlight
Date:3/29/2011

Scientists in the United States and the United Kingdom have been awarded funding totaling more than $10.3 million to improve the process of biological photosynthesis. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) collaborated in issuing these jointly funded awards.

Photosynthesis allows biological systems to use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugars and oxygen. This process is ultimately responsible for the food we eat and the fossil fuels we burn today.

Four transatlantic research teams will explore ways to overcome limitations in photosynthesis that could lead to the development of new methods for significantly increasing the yields of important crops for food production and/or sustainable bioenergy.

The funding agencies used a novel method called an "Ideas Lab" that led to these awards. Ideas Labs are based on the "Sandpit" concept initially developed by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) and are designed to stimulate new conversations about old problems.

In September 2010, an Ideas Lab was held in Asilomar, Calif. that focused on stimulating thinking in promising new, or currently under-developed, research areas relevant to photosynthesis. The workshop's goals were to develop innovative and transformative ideas on how to enhance photosynthesis through a multi-disciplinary approach and to bring together researchers to explore new and exciting avenues for future research in photosynthesis across all disciplines.

The result was the generation and real-time review of high-risk but potentially high-impact proposals for increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis.

NSF and the BBRC are now releasing four awards for proposals--each of which addresses a different bottleneck in photosynthesis--that were produced through the alternative approach pioneered at the Ideas Lab. NSF is contributing a total of $5.
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Contact: Lily Whiteman
lwhitema@nsf.gov
703-292-8310
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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