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Trustee makes donation to start new solar energy research center at Rensselaer
Date:10/31/2008

In the initial stages, the research will center on molecular chemistry and biochemistry to map out the step-by-step processes that nature's perfect green machines go through to convert solar rays into life-sustaining energy, according to Rensselaer Provost Robert Palazzo. "The research will begin by looking at the processes that plants use to intake and utilize the energy from the sun at such an amazing level of efficiency," he said. "This scientific knowledge could provide other Rensselaer scientists and engineers information to develop new technologies that present an entirely new means of harnessing energy from the sun."

Jonathan Dordick, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and a chemical engineer, also envisions strong possibilities for entirely new forms of light-capturing technologies. "Ultimately, biomimetic designs will be integrated with nature's biological machinery to provide scalable, efficient, and broadly applicable systems that convert light into usable and storable energy. This has the potential to revolutionize future energy generation and secure our future as a safe and sustainable society."

K.V. Lakshmi, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology, will help lead the effort at the center to capture the extremely complex reactions of photosynthesis in action, which is a vital first step in the research process. One of the recipients of the first-ever federal Department of Energy (DOE) funding for the investigation of biochemical solar power, Lakshmi is working with fellow assistant professors of chemistry and chemical biology James Kempf, an expert in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) techniques, and Mark Platt, an expert in plant protein and spectroscopy, to understand how the inner workings of the plant protein complex transforms light into power through photosynthesis. Their colleagues, including assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology and molecular chemist Peter Dinol
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Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
demarg@rpi.edu
518-276-6542
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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