The project, called “CHArged Microdroplets for artificial PhotoSynthesis” or CHAMPS was recently awarded a grant from the private foundation Stiftelsen Olle Engkvist Byggmästare. The 3,5 million Swedish kronor grant will fund stipends for two postdoctoral researchers as well as new equipment for the project.


Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism as the result of a chemical reaction during which chemical energy is converted to light energy.


The goal of the CHAMPS project is to develop a new paradigm for nanotechnological research and development based on charged microdroplets produced by electrospray ionization (ESI). The guiding principle is to learn from nature. - “As a starting point, the project takes inspiration from nature’s light-emitting diodes (LEDs): bioluminescent bacteria. The key photochemically active unit, called the chromophore, responsible for light emitted from these bacteria is a biomolecule from the flavin family. Using the powerful tools of gas-phase action spectroscopy, we can investigate  the intrinsic luminescence properties of flavins” explains Mark Stockett. In addition, new spectroscopic and analytical methods will be developed for probing the electronic and chemical properties of flavins inside and at the surface of charged microdroplets.

These experiments will establish a quantitative picture of how flavin luminescence is modulated by the nano-scale interactions in the microdroplet and by extension to the similar interactions with the protein nano-environment inside the bacteria. This new knowledge will be applied towards the development of an artificial photosystem exploiting the unique characteristics of charged microdroplets. These experiments will contribute to the growth of a new research community around the concept of using microdroplets as a new type of laboratory for photochemistry, spectroscopy, and nanotechnology.

Mark H Stockett has been a researcher at Fysikum since 2017, when he was awarded a Starting Grant from the Swedish Research Council. He previously held postdoctoral positions at Aarhus University and Stockholm University after earning his PhD from the University of Wisconsin. His research combines optical spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to understand fundamental interactions and dynamics of complex molecules, with applications ranging from astrophysics to biochemistry.