Friday, February 17, 2012: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Room 211 (VCC West Building)Today's lifestyle is based on using stored solar energy that prehistoric photosynthesis preserved as fossil fuels. In the future, new approaches will be needed that harness the full potential of photosynthesis in food, fuel, and material production. Photosynthesis has evolved in plants, algae, and some bacteria to do the best possible job for the organism in question. However, there are trade-offs in nature, which means that photosynthesis is not as efficient as it could be for many important crops such as wheat, barley, potatoes, and sugar beet. The theoretical maximum is at best only 5 percent. There is scope to improve photosynthesis for processes useful to humankind, e.g., increasing the amount of food yield or energy biomass a plant can produce from the same amount of sunlight. Scientists are now working to overcome limitations in photosynthesis. Projects underway include understanding the natural bottlenecks, developing alternative mechanisms to harness the excess light energy that is otherwise currently wasted, and using synthetic biological approaches to develop an artificial leaf that could harvest sunlight to produce fuel. Each of these projects demands multidisciplinary approaches, bringing together plant scientists, chemists, systems researchers, and engineers. This symposium will present research from scientists who are working on different approaches to enhancing photosynthesis.
Matt T. Goode, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Stephen Long, University of Illinois