Bioinspired design of solar biotechnology systems

Addressing our sustainability challenges with solar powered bio-technologies.

“Our world is rapidly exceeding a series of planetary sustainability boundaries. Our focus is on developing solar powered bio-technologies to provide competitive sustainable solutions to address these challenges.“

The photosynthetic machinery of plants including single cell green algae (microalgae) have evolved over 3 billion years. These intricate nano-machines together form the biological interface that taps into the huge energy resource of the sun and provide a wealth of information to enable design of high-efficiency solar driven microalgae biotechnologies and artificial bioinspired systems.

Plants and microalgae use the captured solar energy to power the production of atmospheric oxygen and biomass which provides, food, fuel and a wide range of biomolecules, that collectively support life on Earth.

Research overview

“Our research team uses a comprehensive skill set ranging from structural and molecular biology through to engineering, techno-economic analysis and scale up to innovate and commercialise solar powered biotechnologies,” said Group Leader Professor Ben Hankamer.

“Our green-algae technologies tap into the huge energy resource of the sun (5500x global energy demand) and absorb CO2 to provide economic solar driven solutions that will help supply the world’s growing energy, food and water needs and a path for CO2 utilisation.

“Our technologies also open up a suite of high value opportunities in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical sectors.”

The importance of these technologies is illustrated by the fact that our global economy is valued at US$119 Trillion and powered by a $6 trillion energy sector.

80% of this energy is used as fuel and only 20% as electricity.

As our population expands from 7.5 to 9.7 billion people by 2050 it is forecast to require 50% more fuel (International Energy Agency), 50% more water (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and 70% more food (United Nations) while reducing C02 emissions by over 80% to prevent dangerous climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Research projects



Prof Ben Hankamer

Professor Ben Hankamer

Group Leader, Chemistry and Structural Biology Division
Director, Centre for Solar Biotechnology

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  Group Leader

  • Professor Ben Hankamer

    Director, IMB Centre for Solar Biotechnology
    Professorial Research Fellow - GL
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience


  • Dr Ian Ross

    Senior Biologist
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Dr Melanie Oey

    Research Fellow
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience
  • Mr Dake Xiong

    Higher degree by research (PhD) student
    Institute for Molecular Bioscience