Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Barry D. Bruce

Committee Members

Paul Frymier, Eric Boder

Abstract

Alternative energy and biofuels are a growing area of research. The demand for more and clean energy is ever increasing, but the current technology is inefficient, expensive, and incapable of meeting the demands of the current market. Hydrogen is a potential future fuel, as it is both clean and renewable, but its formation through conventional means is costly and inefficient. Photosynthesis can be utilized for the formation of hydrogen, which can then serve as a convenient and renewable biofuel. Photosynthetic hydrogen evolution is observed in vitro, but the current photosystem design is not very versatile and optimized to use all incident light it may receive from the sun. Manipulating the photosynthetic machinery by adding phycobilisomes, light-absorbing antennae, to the in vitro system, can potentially boost the absorption and utilization of light available to this system.

To make use of phycobilisomes in this system, a careful look at the structural stability and dissociation pathway of the complex into smaller pieces is pursued to isolate the desired phycobilisome rod component. These rod components are ideal for utilization because of their natural ability to transfer energy to the photosystem, but the organisms from which they are isolated do not preferentially produce them. In addition, a mechanism by which phycobilisome rods can attach to the designed hydrogen evolving system and the completed preparative molecular biology work is presented.

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