Derek R. Lovley
Research in our laboratory focuses on the physiology and ecology of anaerobic microorganisms and their practical applications. A primary emphasis is microbial electron exchange with electronics, other cells, and minerals. The research is multi-disciplinary employing: synthetic biology, genetics, biochemistry, electrochemistry, physiology, environmental meta-omics, genome-scale metabolic modeling, and engineering. Ecological studies focus on anaerobic environments in which microorganisms play an important role in the cycling of carbon, metals, nutrients, or contaminants. Bioenergy research focuses on: artificial photosynthesis in which renewable electricity powers microbial conversion of carbon dioxide to fuels and other organic commodities; the anaerobic conversion of wastes to methane; and harvesting electricity from waste organic matter. Areas of particular current interest are: mechanisms for interspecies electron transfer; the role of electrically conductive pili in diverse microorganisms; and exploiting electrically conductive pili as a novel, sustainably produced, electronic material.
Our current research is focused on the potential for developing novel nanoelectronic sensors and nanowire composite materials from electrically conductive synthetic protein nanowires (e-SPNs). e-SPNs are a revolutionary electronic material that represent a new ‘green’ frontier in electronics manufacture. e-SPNs are sustainably produced from renewable feedstocks with microorganisms, avoiding the harsh chemical conditions associated with the production of many electronic materials. There are no toxic components in the final product. Although e-SPNs are comprised of protein, they are remarkably chemically and physically robust. e-SPN conductivity can be tuned through genetic manipulation over the full range from semi-conductive to conductivities that rival those of carbon nanotubes. e-SPNs can be genetically functionalized with a diversity of linkers to facilitate sensing capabilities for diverse materials (chemicals, gases, biologics) and the fabrication of polymer/e-SPN composite materials. The biocompatibility and unique sensing capabilities of e-SPNs make them ideal candidates for the development of wearable and in-body sensors. Research on e-SPN design for specific sensing applications and engineering of the nanowire devices is under way.
University of Connecticut B.A. 1975 Biological Sciences
Clark University M.A. 1978 Biological Sciences
Michigan State University Ph.D. 1982 Microbiology