Senior Scientist Junko Yano has been named Director of the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division. Over her 22-year career at Berkeley Lab, Yano has become known for her research in natural and artificial photosynthetic systems. She will continue to be a co-principal investigator in the DOE-funded Energy Innovation Hub, the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA), and the Center for Electrochemical Dynamics and Reactions on Surface (CEDARS), a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center.
As a young man, Kenneth Sauer joined Berkeley Lab four years after arriving in Berkeley for his postdoctoral position with famed chemist Melvin Calvin. By that time, he had accepted an assistant professorship in UC Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry to continue what would be his life’s scientific work on the intricate physical process of photosynthesis. He remained active for over 50 years and was, most recently, a professor emeritus of chemistry at UC Berkeley. Sauer died at the age of 91 following a brief illness on November 6, 2022.
After decades of effort, scientists have revealed atomic-scale details of the water splitting step of photosynthesis, the chemical process that generates the air we breathe. The latest work adds to our understanding of photosynthesis and will aid the development of fully renewable alternative energy sources.
A research team led by Francesca Toma, a staff scientist in the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA) and Chemical Sciences Division (CSD), has developed an artificial photosynthesis device with remarkable stability and longevity as it converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into ethylene and hydrogen—two promising sources of renewable fuels. The team used electron microscopy at the Molecular Foundry and ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (APXPS) at the Advanced Light Source to reveal how the device degrades with use, then demonstrate how to mitigate those processes.
A team of scientists, including many in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division, uncovered new details about the reaction that powers photosynthesis. Understanding this reaction could lead to world-changing advances in technology, medicine, or energy––and also gives insight into how the enzyme photosystem II produces the oxygen we breathe. Their latest work was recently published in Nature Communications and two of the authors, Vittal Yachandra and Philipp Simon, spoke with Strategic Communications about that, shooting stuff with lasers, and why they chose this field of research.