Living systems have very efficient mechanisms to carry out a number of useful tasks, such as energy generation, catalysis, logic functions, molecular recognition, motility, etc. These systems are not only efficient, they are also a good example of green and sustainable technology. It would be very useful if the molecular machinery that is responsible for these processes could be incorporated in man-made devices. However, biological molecules are fragile when taken out of their natural biological environment (the cell). We propose to develop gels, essentially water that is immobilised and structured by the incorporation of network of fibres with a precise molecular composition, that stabilise these biological molecules and allow them to be used in devices. The resulting technology will combine the advantages of biological systems (highly efficient and fully renewable) with those of synthetic materials (simple, low-cost and robust). Ultimately, we hope to use this technology to incorporate biology's energy supply mechanism, photosynthetic systems into gel particles.
We have discovered new ways of stabilizing proteins in hydrogels. This was achieved using model proteins and later using light harvesting complexes from purple bacteria. We also discovered unexpected cooperative self-assembly between proteins and peptides which is of general importance in biomedicine.