Solar Biofuels from Microorganisms

30 March - 3 April 2009

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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Description and aim

The objective of this workshop is to assess the potential of the light-driven oxidation of water and the evolution of hydrogen and carbon based fuels by existing photosynthetic microorganisms for the development of a sustainable infrastructure for the efficient production of biofuels. Exploration and optimization of direct routes for the conversion of solar energy by photosynthesis can lead to the production of solar fuels with much higher efficiency than current practice. These third generation biofuels require a systematic elimination of losses coupled to optimization of downstream conversion into fuel in minimally redundant systems that are redesigned and optimized by synthetic methods.

This workshop aims to explore novel concepts for durable solar energy conversion of microorganisms to collect solar radiation, split water and convert atmospheric CO2 into environmentally clean fuels. Much is to be gained by converting solar energy directly into fuel, and this can be achieved using microorganisms or artificial devices. The technological transition to renewable solar fuels critically depends on scientific progress in three areas: (i) biomass production and harvesting, (ii) metabolic and systems engineering to tune the over-all process in terms of output and efficiency, (iii) integration of biotechnology and traditional chemistry and chemical engineering, e.g. in artificial photosynthetic devices. A systems-based approach is required, ultimately achieving end-to-end integration of individual process steps.

The aim of this workshop is to identify the challenges, the potential, and the roadmap towards sustainable biofuel production based on photosynthesis. Photosynthesizers like plants and bacteria are abundant in the biosphere and use solar energy to make oxygen from water and convert atmospheric CO2 into carbohydrates. In this workshop we will focus on microorganisms, bacteria and algae, some of which can also produce hydrogen. Over the past decade remarkable progress has been achieved in understanding the basic mechanisms of photosynthesis from a structural and a mechanistic point of view. We are now at a stage that we can strive to understand and exploit the photosynthetic process at a higher level of complexity, that of the whole cell, in a direct relationship with biofuel production.

This workshop is linked into the Leiden University Honours Programme ( and the students of the Honours Class "From Solar to Fuel with Bio" ( will participate in this workshop.


    Huub De Groot, Leiden Institute of Chemistry  

    Rienk Van Grondelle, Vrije University Amsterdam  

    Roberta Croce, University of Groningen  

    Klaas Hellingwerf, University of Amsterdam  

    Herbert Van Amerongen, Wageningen University  

    Thijs Aartsma, Leiden University  

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