Five Exciton Science Associate Investigators were among the successful applicants for the Australian Research Council’s 2023 Discovery Projects.
RMIT University’s Daniel Gomez is part of a project aiming to fabricate 2D soft plasmonic photocatalysts with leaf-like structures and functions for solar-to chemical energy conversions.
The researchers hope to increase our understanding of plasmon-enhanced photocatalysis mechanisms, and construct artificial leaves to perform the solar-to-chemical conversions, which can provide significant benefits, such as creating a new generation of soft energy devices and advancing Australian expertise in photochemistry, self-assembly, and functional nanomaterials.
Andrew Christofferson, also at RMIT University, and his collaborators will address critical issues in studying proteins outside their native environments by developing new solvents that will increase their stability and solubility.
The project expects to create new knowledge in our understanding of solvent chemical properties through a novel approach using high throughput robotics, synchrotron analysis of protein structures and Molecular Dynamics simulations.
The expected outcome is a set of design rules for creating new solvents. This should benefit many research and industrial applications, including determining protein structure for the development of new drugs and biocatalysts, and cryopreservation of protein-based pharmaceuticals.
Lars Goerigk of the University of Melbourne and Monash University’s Chris Ritchie will be part of a team examining proteins, which perform almost every task that enables the amazing complexity of cellular and whole organism physiology.
These molecular machines perform this incredible array of tasks due to their ability to dynamically change shape. For the vast majority of these machines, we can only view a snapshot of the possible shapes they can adopt and can’t monitor how they change from one shape to another, which is critical for their functioning.
This project aims to develop and apply a completely new method to visualise dynamic changes in protein shape which is not possible with current techniques. This will allow us to provide a new description and understanding of the function of proteins, which is fundamental to all biology.
The University of Melbourne’s Ann Roberts and her colleagues will seek to discover the nano-structural properties of beetles that enable effective management of solar and thermal radiation in different environments.
A further aim is to reveal how these composite biological materials combine thermal control with desirable mechanical properties, such as strength and flexibility. Passive control of radiative energy is critical for both animal survival and for the design of many manufactured materials, particularly in a warming world.
This interdisciplinary project will provide new knowledge of the different ways that biological materials mediate radiative energy exchange with the environment. This knowledge is essential for the design of bioinspired, energy-efficient, multi-functional materials.
To read more about the first round of 2023 ARC Discovery Projects, go to: https://www.arc.gov.au/funding-research/grant-announcement-kits/discovery-projects-2023