Broad interest is devoted nowadays to filling the breach between biology and chemistry in order to comprehend the frontier between living and non-living systems. In this context, protocells are autonomous and self-sustained entities fabricated from scratch, which may exhibit one or more characteristics of actual cells. This project aims at synthesizing cyanobacteria mimics capable of producing H2 and formaldehyde from visible light, water, and methanol. The active material for photosynthesis shall be a semiconducting heterojunction based on BiVO4 and Rh-doped SrTiO3-Pt for Z-scheme photocatalysis. The photocatalyst shall be contained within functional protein-polymer protocell membranes referred to as proteinosomes. These photosynthetic protocells will then be chemically programmed to self-assemble into the first autonomous and photosynthetic biofilm-like material (BFM). The careful three-dimensional design of the BFM, consisting in a combination of mechano-passive, mechano-active and photocatalytic layers of specialized proteinosomes, will allow an emergent and unprecedented photo-mechano-chemical transduction. Therefore, the BFM will be able of an autonomous and self-regulating behavior out of equilibrium. This proposal pushes forward the borders of bottom-up synthetic biology via a nice interdisciplinary interaction with semiconductor photochemistry. Furthermore, an alternative and sustainable route to the production of green fuels is provided, which brings an original solution to the current planetary energetic crisis.
Proton-exchange-membrane water electrolyzers are one of the most promising technologies for hydrogen production. Eliminating rare and expensive iridium in current electrocatalysts for the oxygen-evolution reaction (OER) in acidic media would greatly advance this technology for application on a large scale. The objective of the HEMCAT project is to produce new, cost-effective and high-performance (active and stable) electrocatalysts and to eliminate the iridium in OER electrocatalysts. The materials of focus are high-entropy materials (HEMs) that will be prepared from high-entropy alloys (HEAs) with the anodic oxidation process. Starting HEAs will be selected, prepared in bulk form and subjected to anodic oxidation processes to synthesise high-entropy oxides (HEOs) in the form of high-surface-area nanostructured films on HEA substrates. HEOs will be converted to HEMs with various treatments and will be fully characterized in terms of stability, structure and morphology. Finally, they will be tested for electrocatalytic properties in the OER reaction with state-of-the-art characterization techniques. These will include investigations of electronic and structural properties of synthesized cutting-edge electrocatalysts using synchrotron techniques (X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements) under ex-situ, in-situ and operando conditions. HEMCAT addresses key issues in energy storage and conversion that is clean, compact, and ultimately low-cost and at the same time facilitates intra-European knowledge transfer along with direct societal impacts. The new efficient, stable and inexpensive electrocatalysts for the OER in acidic media will bridge the gap between fundamental and applied electrocatalysis and facilitate the development of advanced electrocatalysts for electrocatalytic applications.
During the years it has been shown that the problem of the environmental impact due to the dispersion in the environment of organic materials recalcitrant to biodegradation (e.g. plastics, lubricants) can only be partially solved by collection and recycling strategies. In this respect, studies are needed that provide effective solutions, embracing the entire life cycle of the material, starting from its design, up to its "end of life". Thus, The RenEcoPol project aim is to develop alternative routes for recyclable polyester synthesis based on biobased building blocks using green processes such as biocatalysis. RenEcoPol first develops a strategy for the selection of monomers from renewable sources completed by a selection of the green catalysts for synthesis of polyesters possible candidates for different applications ranging from packaging to high performance materials. The new biobased polyesters will be characterized in detail by several analytical techniques for structure confirmation and assessment of the physico-chemical properties. In the third step the biodegradability in different natural and synthetic conditions of the synthesized materials will be evaluated and in the last step the development of a strategy for the recoverment of the components will be performed. Following all the steps the compliance to bioeconomy and circular economy criteria will be demonstarted. The RenEcoPol project will familiarize the researcher with bioinformatics, marine biotechnology and will promote her development as independent researcher and facilitate the acquisition of a stable research position in Europe.