Professor Ben Hankamer trained in applied biochemistry in Liverpool before exploring his interest in the development of environmental solutions to re-green deserts at the Desert Research Centre in Israel.

He has a keen interest in environmental protection and climate change. He completed his Masters in plant biotechnology at Wye College, London University before completing his PhD in structural biology. He wanted to understand how plants catch the sunlight and CO2 and use these to produce the food, fuel and atmospheric oxygen which supports life on Earth. He discovered his research passion listening to a talk at the Royal Society in London on using algae to make hydrogen fuel from light and water, and it has been a major research focus ever since.

The Centre for Solar Biotechnology that he now directs develops advanced algae technologies for the production fuels, foods as well as a range of high value products including peptide therapeutics.

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Researcher biography

Centre for Solar Biotechnology: Prof Ben Hankamer is the founding director of the Solar Biofuels Consortium (2007) and Centre for Solar Biotechnology (2016) which is focused on developing next generation microalgae systems. These systems are designed to tap into the huge energy resource of the sun (>2300x global energy demand) and capture CO2 to produce a wide-range of products. These include solar fuels (e.g. H2 from water, oil, methane and ethanol), foods (e.g. health foods) and high value products (e.g. vaccines produced in algae). Microalgae systems also support important eco-services such as water purification and CO2 sequestration. The Centre is being launched in 2016/2017 and includes approximately 30 teams with skills ranging from genome sequencing through to demonstration systems optimsation and accompanying techno-economis and life cycle analysis. The Centre teams have worked extensively with industry.

Structural Biology: The photosynthetic machinery is the biological interface of microalgae that taps into the huge energy resource of the sun, powers the biosphere and produces the atmospheric oxygen that supports life on Earth. My team uses high resolution single particle analysis and electron tomography to solve the intricate 3D architecture of the photosynthetic machinery to enable structure guided design of high efficiency microalgae cell lines and advanced artificial solar fuel systems.