Richard Cogdell’s studies of elaborate protein complexes have transformed our understanding of the chemical processes underlying photosynthesis in bacteria. He is a leader in research that aims to exploit the methods that bacteria use to harness energy from the Sun to make renewable fuels for the future.
The light-harvesting complex from purple bacteria (LH2) is a combination of protein and pigment that initiates photosynthesis by absorbing and transferring solar energy. In 1995, Richard’s group, with others, revealed its elegant cylindrical three-dimensional structure — completely changing ideas about how it transfers energy to the photosynthetic reaction centre (RC).
Having previously clarified the chemistry of the RC, Richard then opened new avenues in research by solving the structure of the RC–LH1 core complex. Now committed to international efforts to develop solar fuels, Richard has acted as an advisor to the US Department of Energy and the European Union on funding for solar energy projects.