The integrated and holistic research approaches taken in the group

 Welcome to the BMBF-funded junior research group Biophotovoltaics.

The research group is funded via the BMBF junior research group funding through the thematic call "Creative young researchers for the bioeconomy". The research group focuses on the biohybrid technique called Biophotovoltaics (BPV) for sustainable energy production from sunlight and water, using interdisciplinary research approach integrating synthetic biology, systems biology, bio- and electrochemical-process engineering and modelling. We are interested in the fundamental, quantitative and holistic understandings of extracellular electron transfer pathway on molecular levels and its corresponding biochemistry and microbial physiology, and subsequently the rational design and development of novel process concepts for optimized desired purpose.

We are always welcome talent, self-motivated and passionate young scientist to join our group. Master and bachelor thesis projects are always available. If you are interested in our work, please contact bin.lai@ufz.de.


Dr. Bin Lai


Dr. Yu Bai

Project: membrane redox protein for extracellular electron transfer of Synechocystis in Biophotovoltaics (BMBF, from 03.2023)


Jana Gaibler

Thesis: Engineering the membrane transportation system of Synechocystis sp 6803 in Biophotovoltaics (BMBF, from 11.2023)

Mohammed Qasim

Thesis: Process modelling and computational-guided system development of Biophotovoltaics (BMBF, from 10.2023)

Alicia Mier-Jimenez

Thesis: process engineering and system development of Biophotovoltaics (BMBF, from 09.2023)

Vincent Reilly-Schott

Thesis: electro-microbiology of Synechocystis in Biophotovoltaics (BMBF, from 03.2023)

Jianqi Yuan (jointly with SBT group)

Thesis: Electron balance analysis of Synechocystis in Biophotovoltaics (CSC, from 09.2021)

Laura Pause (jointly with SBT group)

Thesis: Tunable electro-fermentation using metabolically engineered Pseudomonas putida (DFG SPP2240, from 06.2021)

Hans Schneider (jointly with SBT group)

Thesis: Extracellular electron transfer pathway and microbial phenotype of Synechocystis in Biophotovoltaics (UFZ central budget, from 12.2020)


Maria Veit (Project: comparative analysis of the CRISPRi efficiency targeting on multiple proteins)


2023.02 - 2023.04: Liuyan Gu (PhD student at DTU, Denmark)


2023.07, Chinesisch-Deutsches Zentrum für Wissenschaftsförderung, grant Nr. GZ 1725, 2245€.


BioPV4H2: Biophotovoltaics for bio-hydrogen production from water, carbon dioxide and sunlight

Funding agency: Federal Ministry of Education and Research;

Period: 08.2022 - 07.2027

Budget: 2.910.350,31- €

Principal Investigator: Bin Lai

Greenhouse gas emission neutrality by 2050 is the core of developing a sustainable society. Hydrogen becomes a molecule of increasing interest and is considered as one primary solution to achieve this target in Germany and Europe. Three critical questions have to be addressed: how to produce sufficient and clean H2? Which resources should be used? And which technology should be developed for H2 production? The sustainable production of H2 plays a critical role in reaching the ambitious goal committed by the European Union (including Germany). Ultimately, breaking the relatively infinite resource water into H2 using infinite sunlight can be the ideal solution.

How to exploit the sunlight for splitting water to pure H2 via a resource-/energy-friendly approach? Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), our group will exploit a unique carbon-sink biohybrid technique termed Biophotovoltaics (BPV) to achieve this goal.

In this project, the overall research goal is to define a process window and thus develop a process concept for a BPV to drive its future application by exploiting interfacial interactions between different aspects on multiple scales. The system boundaries are determined by the microbial physiology and process kinetics which happen dynamically and iteratively on the scales of operating time and system dimension. This project will systematically and quantitatively reveal the impacts of microbial and process kinetics on the system performance and also the influence of time, process scale and dynamic environmental conditions. All the knowledge will be merged together into a digital twin platform to gain a holistic understanding of the BPV system, which ultimately will lead to rational design and development of the BPV process to reach productivity and scale of practical interest. Briefly, our group will address and answer the following four questions via respective working packages:
i) What process concept is feasible for the long-term field application of BPV?
ii) How can we steer the cyanobacterial physiology to favour the anodic electron sink?
iii) How can we improve the cellular electron flux towards anode for efficient H2 formation?
iv) What is the capacity of BPV for H2 production and the constraints to realize it? 

The overall research objective of this project


You could use our publication index for further requests.

2023 (8)

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2022 (2)

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2021 (3)

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2020 (3)

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2019 (3)

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2018 (2)

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The group welcome talented and motivated students to join for Bachelor, Master thesis project as well as practical training and HIWI projects. We applied a broad methodology in our group, ranging from molecular biology, quantiative biology, and process engineering and system modelling. Please contact Dr. Bin Lai to discuss a customized project for you, if you are interested in our research field.