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Bio-engineered nanophotonics

Welcome to Bio-Engineered Nanophotonics group. We innovate the light conversion field through a synergy between molecular biology and time-resolved spectroscopy. Our mission is overcoming current challenges in the development of efficient photosystems by setting-up new methods to control exciton decay mechanisms based on engineered interactions between proteins and chromophores. In particular, we use recombinant proteins designed with pockets to embed the chromophore in an environment that can be tuned at the nanoscale. Selected protein scaffolds allow us to modify protein-chromophore interaction's nature and strength in a controlled way and evaluate it as bio-exciton coupling. Simultaneously, we develop time-resolved spectroscopic strategies for real-time tracking exciton evolution and study its decay dynamics at the engineered bio-hybrids. Our approach allows to answer key questions on the role of the amino acids in chromophore light conversion mechanisms. The final goal is to establish the design rules for amino acid-controlled light conversion and optimize the photoactive bio-hybrid for applications in photonics, energy storage, and photochemistry.

Figure 1

We tackle the challenge of bio-engineered light conversion using different approaches based on designed protein modifications. You can find more details on our main approaches below. 

MAIN RESEARCH LINES

  • Protein structure modulators for chromophore function modification. Conformational changes in Natural photosystems triggers changes in the chromophore energy states associated with key functions. Specific protein-dye interactions might have role in boosting these backbone changes, but a scant understanding on their nature lead to an underestimation of their role. In our lab, we engineered bio-hybrid with key amino acids that act as structural modulators. We evaluate the impact of the structural modulators at different bio-exciton coupling regime by assessing their effect at different levels including folding landscape, photoactive molecule´s rotational freedom, and protein backbone dynamics. Using this information, we develop bio-physical models that inform in the structural modulator´s action mechanism and their role in the chromophore function modulation.

Figure 2

  • Engineered protein environments for exciton dynamics on demand. Amino acids effects in chromophore energy landscape are key for Natural system´s light conversion efficiency. Our interest is to unravel the mechanisms behind their role in exciton decay selectivity. Towards this end, we design bio-hybrids with modifications, track the exciton evolution of their chromophores over time and correlate bio-excitonic coupling with exciton decay rate in 2D diagrams. This allows us to evaluate the capacity of engineered protein environments to decouple the exciton decay pathways and obtain mechanistic information on the amino acids´ effect in the chromophore´s energy pattern modification.

Figure 3

  • Selective light conversion for applications. We test optimized bio-hybrids for the development of new materials with improved light conversion properties and show their potential in applications like photocatalysis, emissive device generation or magnetic tracker development.

Figure 4